The Pulse

Peter Hans elected UNC System President

By: - June 19, 2020 12:30 pm

In an emergency meeting Friday morning, the UNC Board of Governors unanimously elected Peter Hans the next UNC System President.

Hans, who now serves as as president of the North Carolina Community College System, will take the university’s system’s top leadership spot Aug. 1.

“Peter has long distinguished himself as a visionary leader who not only understands, but who is leading the charge for the future of higher education,” said UNC Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey.“We believe there is no one better suited to lead our university system into the future — even if that future may be very different than the one we all thought it would be six months ago. We are delighted to have Peter Hans as our new president and look forward to the transition process.”

“Peter Hans passionately believes that North Carolina’s future depends on education, and he has a long track record of uniting people and institutions in pursuit of shared goals,” said Dr. Bill Roper, who has served as  interim president of the UNC System since Margaret Spellings abruptly left the position last year.

UNC System President-elect Peter Hans speaks to the UNC Board of Governors following his election Friday morning.

“I am confident that, with today’s decision, great things are ahead for the UNC System and for our great state,” Roper said.

Hans has led the state’s community college system for the last two years. Before that, he was an advisor to Spellings on technology, health care, strategic planning and K-12 education. He served on the UNC Board of Governors from 2003 to 2014, serving as chair of the board from 2012 to 2014.

Ramsey said the people of North Carolina want a leader who can rise above partisan politics — a serious problem on the tumultuous and highly political board of governors over the last few years.

Hans does have a partisan political history. He served as senior policy advisor to U.S. Senators Lauch Faircloth (R) and Richard Burr (R) and was a campaign advisor for Senator Elizabeth Dole (R).

But those who have worked with Hans said he has a history of reaching across the aisle and operating in an inclusive and non-partisan way.

Friday morning Gov. Roy Cooper (D), State Senate leader President Pro Tem Phil Berger  (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) released a joint statement praising the choice of Hans.

“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,” the three said in a statement. “That we all agree on Peter is a testament to the respect he commands as an able, competent leader.”

Two of the system’s previous presidents, Spellings and Erskine Bowles,  also issued statements praising Hans as the board’s choice Friday. Spellings is a prominent Republican who served as Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush while Bowles, a Democrat, was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

“Congratulations to my dear friend and colleague Peter Hans, who has committed his career on the state and national levels to advancing and enriching the lives of all North Carolinians,” Spellings said in a statement. “Whether as a trusted advisor to me at the UNC System or as President of the NC Community Colleges, Peter has worked tirelessly to improve student achievement, enhance educational access, and ensure college affordability for all students. I wish Peter the greatest success as he takes the helm of the System during this critical time.”

Bowles said Hans has “the people skills, the experience and the leadership strengths needed to push the university forward in a nonpartisan manner, to meet the challenges and opportunities we face today and will face in the future.”

“I am delighted that the UNC Board of Governors has elected Peter Hans to serve as the president of the University of North Carolina,” said Bowles said in a statement. “Peter served as vice chairman of the UNC Board of Governors during my tenure as UNC President. I’ve seen firsthand the real love Peter has for our state and our university, as well as the deep appreciation he has of the critically important role that the University’s 17 campuses play in the future of North Carolina and our people.”

Hans’ base salary as president will be $400,000 — dramatically lower than Spellings or Roper, Roper now makes $775,000 per year, with a $77,500 annual retirement contribution and the possibility of up to $125,000 in an annual performance bonus. An additional $600,000 will be possible as incentive pay based on his performance on three metrics  — increasing on-time graduation rates for first-time and transfer undergraduate students, reducing expenses per degree completed, and reducing student loan debt per undergraduate students as a percentage of per-capita income.

UNC Board of Governors member Jim Holmes said Hans preferred that compensation arrangement and praised him for it.

In a brief press conference after his election Hans said he believes the university system can learn a lot from the state’s underrated community colleges — including making transfers between schools easier, stretching their dollars and the importance of taxpayers as stakeholders.

He declined to get into his ideas for the system in detail, saying Roper will be president until August and the system should have just one leader at a time.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

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Joe Killian
Joe Killian

Investigative Reporter Joe Killian's work examines government, politics and policy, with a special emphasis on higher education, LGBTQ issues and extremism.