Program Report: UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt

Just in the last few days, U.S. News and World Report ranked many of UNC’s graduate programs as among the “best” in the country.  The School of Medicine’s primary care program ranks first.  Other rankings are too numerous to enumerate but they range from nursing to business to education to public affairs to the sciences.  According to Chancellor Folt, among all universities UNC ranks sixth in the dollar volume of research conducted by faculty and students.  This year UNC attracted more than one billion dollars in grants and contracts for research.  One of her goals is to continue growing collaborative research projects with other area universities.  One such program is a joint UNC-NC State biomedical engineering department.   Duke is the biggest collaborator in programs and research. 

Chancellor Folt made the interesting point that the role of universities changed dramatically after World War II.  From being seen as finishing schools, research universities began functioning increasingly as groundbreaking innovators and drivers in society and the economy.  Startups that emerged from UNC contribute $10 billion to the economy.

Answering a question about burdensome student debts, Chancellor Folt replied that the average debt of UNC undergraduates is $17,000.  For one thing, UNC’s tuition is among the lowest of all research universities.  Also, UNC students obviously don’t dawdle.  UNC has the second highest graduation rate among public universities.  UNC is both accessible and affordable for North Carolina residents.  Not so accessible, however, for out-of-state students.  She remarked that it is harder for an out-of-state student to get into UNC than into Harvard.

The dwindling commitment of tax revenues to higher education forces universities to be resourceful in order to maintain academic and research excellence.  Less than thirteen percent of UNC’s budget comes from the state.  An increasingly important source of funding comes from capital campaigns and endowments.  The current Campaign for Carolina seeks to raise $4.2 billion in the next four years.  Past President Susan Ross, who introduced Chancellor Folt, is a consultant for this ambitious effort.  No campaign of this scope will be successful without a compelling vision for future excellence.  A recently developed The Blueprint for Next provides a unifying strategic framework for the future of UNC.

Submitted by Allen Cronenberg     

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