University of North Carolina Wilmington

Five-year Goals and Associated Interim Benchmarks

In January 2017, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina unanimously approved Higher Expectations, a five-year Strategic Plan for the UNC System. The Plan calls on the UNC System to achieve ambitious goals in access, student success, affordability and efficiency, economic impact and community engagement, and institutional excellence and diversity.

Progress on these goals and metrics will be achieved through the hard work and commitment of institutional leaders, faculty, and staff. In that spirit, University of North Carolina Wilmington has identified these contributions that University of North Carolina Wilmington aspires to make to the UNC Strategic Plan over the next five years.



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Low-income Enrollments

By fall 2021, UNCW will enroll 3,576 low-income students, a 7.5% increase over 2015 levels (248 additional low-income students over a base of 3,328).

From UNC Wilmington: UNCW has successfully recruited students from lower-income backgrounds and, as of fall 2016, enrolled 3,517 low-income students, nearly reaching its 2021 performance goal. This accomplishment is the result of numerous efforts to make higher education more accessible to students from all backgrounds. The university introduces the possibility of college education through youth programs and K-12 school partnerships. Admissions actively recruits well-qualified students from lower-income backgrounds, and the Office of Financial Aid offers programs specifically to assist them. The story of alumnus Bruce Hernandez ’18, who thought he would be unable to attend college, illustrates the effectiveness of programs that support student success. Hernandez credits UNCW’s Centro Hispano with encouraging him to continue his education. Through giving campaigns and targeted fundraising, UNCW also has increased endowments that support scholarships to help students realize their dreams of a college education.


Rural Enrollments

By fall 2021, UNCW will enroll 4,220 rural students, a 5.3% increase over 2016 levels (212 additional rural students over a base of 4,008).

From UNC Wilmington: Although UNCW attracts students from around the globe, the rural regions of eastern North Carolina are an important source of students. As of fall 2017, UNCW already had surpassed its 2021 goal, with 4,305 students enrolled from rural areas; however, the university remains committed to increasing opportunities for students from rural areas, particularly counties designated as Tiers I and II in terms of economic development. A recently signed student success partnership between UNCW and Wayne Community College will enhance efforts to enroll more students from rural parts of eastern North Carolina. The university admissions staff visited at least 68 of the 80 Tier I and II counties in the 2017-18 academic year; 70 percent of Admissions visits in 2016-17 were in Tier I and II counties. UNCW also held “Apply on the Fly” events at community colleges throughout central and southeastern North Carolina to recruit transfer students. Enrolling more rural students will enhance the region’s skilled workforce and potentially help drive economic development in these communities, particularly if the students earn degrees in critical workforce areas such as health care and teaching. Distance Learning also provides access to UNCW and is especially suited to students who work or do not live near a university campus.


Achievement Gaps in Undergraduate Degree Efficiency

By 2021-22, UNCW will reduce by 50% the achievement gap in undergraduate degree efficiency between low income and non-low income students.

From UNC Wilmington: UNCW is 1st in the UNC System in overall undergraduate degree efficiency and has been recognized by The Education Trust for efforts to decrease the achievement gap among underrepresented populations. Like many of its peer institutions, the university continues to face the challenge of reducing the achievement gap among low-income students. The commitment to narrowing the gap is linked to degree completions, so all retention and student-support initiatives inherently contribute to that effort. UNCW has also initiated programs that focus on the needs of first-generation college students, low-income and rural students, and others whose personal circumstances may present a barrier to degree completion. Seahawk LEADS, a mentoring program, and Seahawk RISE, which helps rural students engage with the university and the community, inspire students to focus on degree completion by providing resources and guidance. Another initiative, Seahawk Success, encourages former students to return to UNCW to finish their degrees.


Research Productivity

By 2021-22, UNCW will receive $19,320,362 in research and development sponsored program awards and licensing income, an increase of 134% ($11,063,797 additional over a base of $8,256,565).

From UNC Wilmington: UNCW has a history of coastal and marine research, with well-equipped lab facilities at the CREST Research Park. Faculty, students, and staff conduct globally significant research across multiple disciplines, institutions, and agencies. UNCW surpassed its 2017-18 benchmark for research dollars. Recent recipients include D. Ann Pabst, a leading global expert on cetaceans, who received a $1.2 million federal grant, in partnership with international researchers and Duke University, to expand knowledge of marine mammals, and Dylan McNamara, who is leading a multi-institutional research team to develop models for helping coastal communities anticipate and prepare for changing sea level. The university encourages research by faculty, staff, and students at all levels, as well as partnerships with entrepreneurs and nonprofits. In 2017-18, four students received highly competitive NOAA Hollings Scholarships. While many universities prioritize graduate research, UNCW programs such as ETEAL (Experiencing Transformative Education through Applied Learning) and SURCA (Support for Undergraduate Research and Creativity), provide undergraduate research opportunities.


Critical Workforces

By 2021-22, UNCW will produce 2,125 critical workforce credentials, an increase of 34.2% (542 additional critical workforce credentials over a base of 1,583).

From UNC Wilmington: UNCW surpassed its 2017-18 benchmark and is increasing its number of STEM students with critical workforce credentials. The growing College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) has added new health sciences programs, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. UNCW is developing master’s programs in athletic training and high-demand healthcare fields. MS and Ph.D. programs in pharmaceutical science are in development, and UNCW has added programs in other STEM fields, including data science. Beginning in 2019, UNCW will offer a BS in coastal engineering, pending final approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates steady growth in marine- and environmental-related civil engineering fields in the coming years. Veterans Hall will open in 2020 to house CHHS and chemistry and biochemistry programs. A new STEM building is a future capital project priority. The Watson College of Education graduates teachers who are well-prepared for the classroom and, in an effort to address ongoing teacher shortages, has added programs for STEM majors seeking teaching credentials and for classroom teachers who want to integrate STEM throughout their curriculum.



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Low-income Completions

By 2021-22, UNCW will produce 1,406 low-income graduates, an increase of 26.7% (296 additional low-income completions over a base of 1,110).

From UNC Wilmington: One of 11 universities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in 2017 for supporting students, UNCW prioritizes retention and degree completion. The university’s record 87 percent freshman retention rate is one example of success. University College, which helps first-year students transition to UNCW, and the dean of Undergraduate Studies play key roles in retention and completions. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion also offers programs designed for students who may be first-generation college students. Organizations such as Centro Hispano and the Upperman African American Cultural Center help students engage with the university community and support their academic goals. Financial aid -- including Pell Grants and SOAR scholarships – and work study programs help offset the cost of higher education. The Seahawk LEADS (Leadership, Empowerment, Academic Development and Success) program pairs first-year students with a faculty or staff mentor. Studies show that students with mentors are more likely to graduate than their peers who lack mentors.


Rural Completions

By 2021-22, UNCW will produce 1,080 rural graduates, an increase of 15.8% (147 additional rural completions over a base of 933).

From UNC Wilmington: UNCW has met its 2017-18 benchmark and is enhancing programs to help rural students complete their degrees. A first-year bridge program, Seahawk RISE (Reaching and Inspiring Student Excellence), is designed especially for students from North Carolina’s rural areas to help them develop leadership skills, adjust to university life, and give back to the community. The program helps students engage with the campus and the local community, beginning in their freshman year. With several large military bases within 100 miles, UNCW has been recognized for extending educational opportunities to active-duty service members, veterans, and military families. The UNCW@Onslow campus in Jacksonville provides onsite, online, and blended programs that serve not only the military but also residents of Onslow and other rural counties, especially in southeastern North Carolina. Distance learning also makes it easier for people, especially working adults, who do not live within convenient driving distance of a university campus to complete their degrees. A State Employees Credit Union Foundation collaboration with UNCW provides public service internships with nonprofits in rural counties, an arrangement that benefits both the agencies and the students who participate in a meaningful applied-learning experience. Preference is given to students from rural communities.


Five-year Graduation Rates

By 2022, UNCW will improve its five-year graduation rate from any accredited institution to 81.6%. This is an improvement over a base of 78.4% for UNCW’s 2010 cohort.

From UNC Wilmington: UNCW’s five-year graduation rate of 81.0 percent ranks near the top in the UNC System and is among the highest within UNCW’s official peer group. The university’s strategic focus is to provide an affordable, high-quality education that prepares students to compete in a global workforce. UNCW is a student-centered campus with a strong emphasis on teaching and mentoring. This video discusses programs designed to help students position themselves for success. University College supports students as they explore undergraduate curriculum and career paths, prepare to declare an appropriate major, and succeed in their transition to UNCW. This contact empowers students to make informed academic choices, which position them for success. With funding from the UNC System, UNCW has enhanced services to reduce the number of “stop-outs,” students who leave before graduating. Key among these efforts is Seahawk Success, which encourages former students to return to complete their degrees. In a related initiative, a new BA in Interdisciplinary Studies will offer students who “stopped out” a choice of several academic tracks that incorporate their previous credits as well as life and work experiences to help them complete a degree.



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Undergraduate Degree Efficiency

By 2021-22, UNCW will maintain its undergraduate degree efficiency at its current level of 26.1.

From UNC Wilmington: UNCW ranks 1st in the UNC System in undergraduate degree efficiency and surpassed its 2021 goal, with degree efficiency of 26.8 as of the 2016-17 academic year. Successes in initiatives named in the previous performance metrics that center on retention of students, graduation rates, and degree completion will continue to raise the university’s undergraduate degree efficiency. As new programs are added, some departments, including the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, have taken steps to align academic requirements to enable more students to double major or to add a minor to their degrees – which will better position graduates to succeed in a globally competitive job market. Relationships with regional businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies enhance student internship opportunities. Students who can see how their classroom learning applies in the workforce are more likely to remain focused on their academic goals, including on-time completion of degree programs.



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