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In a special meeting that lasted only minutes, the State Board of Community Colleges voted to make Peter Hans the new president of the North Carolina community college system yesterday. 

Hans, a former vice chair for the board and former chair of the UNC Board of Governors, has served as an advisor to University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings since 2016. He has also previously served as policy adviser to prominent Republican politicians like U.S. Senators Lauch Faircloth, Elizabeth Dole, and U.S. Rep. Richard Burr. 

“Community colleges are the next rung up on the ladder for so many. And for our state, community colleges are the edge for workforce development and economic development,” he said in a press conference. “A renewed investment in our community colleges will pay dividends for all North Carolinians.” 

Prominent leaders such as Spellings, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Governor Roy Cooper, all came together for the press conference and to support Hans. 

“In many ways, the stars are aligned for action,” Hans said. “With Governor Cooper, Speaker Moore, President Pro Tem Berger, we have a strong bipartisan commitment to community colleges.” 

Cooper said during the press conference that he has known Hans for 30 years and recognizes his love for the state. 

“This is a guy who can reach across the aisle. This is a guy who can achieve consensus,” Cooper said. “And I think we have unanimous agreement that Peter Hans is the man to lead this system forward, pull us all together, to make sure we have a state that works for everyone.” 

Berger talked about the importance of the community college system for the state. 

“Now more than ever, NC is relying on our community colleges to help prepare our students and our people for careers that train our workforce and grow our economy,” he said. “Peter is an outstanding choice to lead this effort. In fact, I think Peter is the only choice.” 

Moore made the connection between the state’s community colleges and a strong economy. 

Community colleges are the tip of the spear in our commitment to a strong business climate, and they have chosen a great leader,” he said in a press release. “Peter shares the General Assembly’s priority of keeping our higher education systems on the cutting edge of the new economy.”

He also reflected on his time at UNC-Chapel Hill with Hans.

“He was an exceptional student. I was an average student at best,” he joked during the press conference. “He’s the kind of guy you’d want to study with if you wanted a good grade.”

Spellings talked about the important connection between the UNC System and the state’s community colleges. 

“With more than 10,000 students transferring from our community colleges into the UNC system schools, we are knitted together in ways as never before,” she said. 

Hans will receive a salary of $275,000 as he leads a system that serves almost 700,000 students in pursuit of two-year degrees, technical training, transfer to four-year universities, and high school equivalency classes. 

He takes over for Jennifer Haygood who was serving in an interim capacity during the search for a new leader. He took a moment during the press conference to praise her work keeping the system moving. 

“I’m also thrilled to work with a very talented system office staff, led by the highly capable Jennifer Haygood, to whom we are all indebted.” 

 
Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.