RALEIGH (May 1, 2018) – The NC Board of Community Colleges named Peter Hans – once a member of the board himself, as well as a former chair of the UNC Board of Governors – as the new President of the NC Community College System today.
Board Chairman Scott Shook said the board considered more than 30 candidates during the six-month search.
“At the beginning of this search, we said we wanted someone with an understanding and appreciation of the Community College System – a creative thinker capable of working with a variety of constituencies,” Shook said. “Peter Hans is that person.”
Whether it is closing the skills gap or the divide between rural and urban North Carolina, Hans said, “Community colleges will be there, preparing North Carolinians to reach their full potential … and helping our state grow and prosper.
“A renewed investment in our community colleges will pay dividends for all North Carolinians.”
Hans, a native of Hendersonville and Southport and a 1991 alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill, has worked as an advisor to U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth and then-U.S. Rep. Richard Burr. He also advised Elizabeth Dole during her successful run for the U.S. Senate in 2002.
Though Hans is identified primarily with Republicans, he also worked with Democratic former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker to build a government-relations practice in Raleigh. And both Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders were on hand to praise his selection.
“The number-one thing people in the business world need is a well-trained workforce,” said Cooper, who said he has known Hans for 30 years. “I think this is the right pick. This is a guy who can reach across the aisle. This is a guy who can achieve consensus.”
NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger agreed that Hans is the right choice. “He’ll work to ensure that in every decision we make, we’re putting students first,” Berger said.
And House Speaker Tim Moore said Hans will do a great job as president of the 58-college system – the third-largest higher education system in the nation, with 700,000 students.
“We all know that workforce development is critical – and the community colleges are the tip of the spear on that,” Moore said.
Hans has traveled in both political and higher education circles, serving as chair of the UNC Board of Governors and vice-chair of the NC Board of Community Colleges.
His relationships with both the university and community college systems should only strengthen collaboration between the two at a time when increasing numbers of students choose to start their post-secondary education at a community college.
With more than 10,000 students a year now transferring from community colleges to state universities, UNC System President Margaret Spellings said at the announcement, “We are knitted together in ways as never before.”
Hans was honored by UNC-Wilmington in 2014 for improving collaboration between the university and community college systems.
Spellings said she looks forward to working with Hans to continue to smooth community-college students’ transfers, as well as on technology issues. Hans has served as a senior policy advisor to Spellings since 2016.
Hans succeeds Jimmie Williamson, who resigned with little explanation last July just 13 months after taking the job. He will be paid a salary of $275,000.
One of the system president’s primary jobs is to work with the General Assembly to secure funding for community colleges, and Hans is already familiar with leaders in the legislature.
With the governor and the two most powerful legislators standing behind him, he was asked today what his biggest challenge will be as system president.
“The opportunity is the potential for more investment, so we can stretch that dollar and prepare more North Carolinians (for the workplace) … but we need the resources to do so,” he said.
He also spoke about the challenges that community college students – many of them first-generation college students – often face juggling jobs, child care, transportation and scheduling.
“I don’t know how they do it, but they’re busting their tails – and I’m going to bust mine,” he said. “Let’s get to work.”