Enrollment Growth and Equity of Access: A Critical Analysis of the University of North Carolina's Strategic Plan

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The University of North Carolina System’s strategic plan contains initiatives to increase access for low-income and rural students, improve student outcomes, and close achievement gaps. A complete assessment of UNC’s strategic plan will consider increased enrollment against the demand of the state’s economy, the cost of education, and institutional resources. Enrollment growth carries the risks of lowering academic standard or oversaturating North Carolina’s economy with college-educated workers. However, the low educational attainment of the state’s underserved populations supports expanding access. A more detailed investigation of demographics at each of the campuses is necessary to understand the scope of underrepresentation within the system. The resulting calculations show that in addition to underrepresentation, there is also unequal distribution of minority, low-income, and rural students across UNC institutions. While the system has identified a number of programs and methods for achieving its priorities, it is also worth examining other models that may have application in North Carolina. In its current form, UNC’s strategic plan is insufficient to drive state-wide improvements. The aims produce only minimal gains, overlook important gaps, and lack the coordination between campuses necessary to best utilize system resources. There is unmet need and significant opportunity for innovation in North Carolina’s public institutions, but more ambitious goals will have to be implemented to result in any meaningful impact.





Levitt, Jessica (2019). Enrollment Growth and Equity of Access: A Critical Analysis of the University of North Carolina's Strategic Plan. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18634.

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