The current president of the North Carolina Community College System Peter Hans will take the helm of the University of North Carolina System beginning in August.
The UNC Board of Governors unanimously elected Hans as the UNC System President Friday morning following a more than year-long search that continued through the coronavirus pandemic.
"We believe there is no one better suited to lead our university system into the future, a future that may be different than what we thought it would look like six months ago,” UNC System Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey said.
Hans will succeed former President Margaret Spellings, who announced her resignation in October 2018, ending her five year contract midway through. Interim President Bill Roper has been serving in the role since January 2019 and will retire at the end of July.
Hans has led the 58-campus NC Community College System for two years. He said he hopes the UNC System can benefit from the lessons he’s learned leading the state’s community colleges.
“The university can actually learn from the community colleges how to extend opportunity to all North Carolinians, how to stretch a dollar a little bit more effectively, how to focus on the students and their futures, and the taxpayers and their stake,” Hans said in an acceptance speech.
Hans promised a commitment to affordability and accessibility as centerpieces of his vision for the UNC System.
During his tenure, the community college system saw its first increase in enrollment in nearly a decade this past fall. Meanwhile, degree completion rates and public and private funding also rose.
The UNC System is offering Hans a "results-based salary" with a base of $400,000 and possible bonuses if the universities meet certain goals under his leadership. After a year in office, Hans will be eligible for additional compensation of $600,000 if the UNC System makes progress on graduation rates, reductions in expenses per degrees granted, or reductions in the average student loan debt of bachelor's degree recipients. Members of the Board of Governors said Hans suggested this form of compensation.
Previously, Hans served a total of three terms on the UNC System Board of Governors, with two years as its chairman from 2012 to 2014. He is a 1991 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and a North Carolina native.
Hans has a long-standing history in Republican politics, having served as a senior policy adviser to U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth, then-U.S. Rep. Richard Burr, and Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole.
Board chair Randy Ramsey defended Hans’ political background, arguing that Hans is not a “particularly partisan” candidate.
“Peter is liked across both sides of the aisle,” Ramsey said.
In a show of bipartisan unity, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore issued a joint statement Friday in support of Hans’ election.
“Peter Hans has done tremendous work as president of the N.C. Community College System, and he’s the right choice for UNC System President,” Cooper, Berger and Moore wrote.
Hans will lead the UNC System as it prepares to reopen its 17 campuses to about 250,000 students this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.