Spellings was inaugurated as the 18th UNC-system president in a tickets-only ceremony in Memorial Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill. Major political figures joined the UNC Board of Governors members and university chancellors to praise Spellings.
Spellings said the state should focus on opportunities for vulnerable students, many of who drop out and are left in debt without opportunities.
“As the cost of college has risen, so too has the cost of failure,” she said in her speech.
Spellings spoke about policies that would expand education for the working class, returning veterans, parents and professionals, minorities and low-income families.
“At a time when our state and our nation are growing more diverse — when the school-age population in North Carolina is almost 50 percent minority and growing — we absolutely cannot tolerate pernicious gaps in opportunity,” Spellings said.
Chris Parrish, associate director of Undergraduate Admissions Systems & Planning at Western Carolina University, said accessibility has improved under the legislature’s N.C. Promise Tuition Plan, which Spellings has praised. The plan lowered tuition to $500 per semester for in-state students at Western Carolina University, UNC-Pembroke and Elizabeth City State University.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said she attended the event to emphasize collaboration between the town and the university.
“She’s been very willing to talk about how we include more diversity in our schools,” Hemminger said.