RALEIGH — The head of North Carolina’s community college network was named on Friday to lead the state’s 17-campus public university system.
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors unanimously voted for Peter Hans to serve as the next system president. He’ll succeed Bill Roper, who was named interim president after former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings resigned in 2018.
“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, who also served as co-chair of the search committee. “We believe there is no one better suited to lead our university system into the future—even if the 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.”
Hans served three terms on the Board of Governors, including two years as chair. From 2016 to 2018, he advised former UNC System President Margaret Spellings on issues related to technology, health care, strategic planning and K-12 education. served a six-year term on the State Board of Community Colleges, where he was vice chair.
He took over as the state’s community college head two years ago, and he will now manage a system serving nearly 250,000 students.
“I appreciate very much the opportunity,” Hans said in brief remarks following the board’s decision.
His first day as president will be Aug. 1.
“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, interim president of the UNC System. “I am confident that, with today’s decision, great things are ahead for the UNC System and for our great state.”
In a news conference following the vote, he said he would work closely with Roper to ensure students are safe upon return to campus. He also wants to build a closer relationship between the community college system and university system to allow students to more easily transfer among schools.
“I will be laying out detailed opportunities for this university and the state to capitalize on in a way that will promote the affordability and accessibility of higher education,” Hans told reporters.
Roper said he’s left move-in policies up to each individual campus and has been in recent communications with the CDC Director Robert Redfield as the state works to address “the thousands of questions that are being raised and thought through as we look forward to a careful and helpful reopening.”
James Holmes, a member of the board, said Hans would receive a base salary that is in the average range of a university chancellor. Upon Hans’ request, the board granted him a “results-based compensation model,” according to Holmes.
“It’s very telling because it demonstrates leadership,” Holmes said. “Here’s someone who wants to be rewarded when we all succeed.”
Hans will make $400,000 a year and will be eligible for an additional $600,000 beginning with the July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022 fiscal year. The bonus of up to $600,000 will be based on improved on-time graduation rates, lower education expenses per degree completed and reductions in average student loan debt.
Hans comes to the UNC System with a lengthy history in Republican politics. He worked in the 1990s for Republican U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth. He later worked with then-Rep. Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole in her successful 2002 U.S. Senate campaign.
Hans has also developed a reputation as a bipartisan collaborator. He started a government relations practice with former Democratic Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker and gained the support of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, state Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore when he was named president of the community college system in May 2018. The state’s 58 community colleges serve 700,000 people.
“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 said in a joint statement. “That we all agree on Peter is a testament to the respect he commands as an able, competent leader.”
The NC Chamber applauded the selection of Hans as well, with president and CEO Gary Salamido saying “President Hans is a committed champion for every student in our state.” Salamido continued, “As the leader of 58 North Carolina community college campuses since May 2018, he has proven to be an essential advocate and partner for the NC Chamber’s efforts in closing our state’s educational attainment gap and empowering 2 million North Carolinians with high-quality postsecondary degrees or credentials by 2030. I am certain that President Hans will continue the mission of advancing access to affordable and valuable college degrees that lead to rewarding careers and secure a competitive and world-class workforce for North Carolina.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.