North Carolina

UNC formalizes program to help athletes complete unfinished degrees

Posted July 24, 2014

— University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt announced on Thursday the university's plan to formalize a program that will help athletes who did not finish their degrees to return to the university to do so. 

"Complete Carolina" will be funded by the university's athletic department. Folt announced the measure during Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting. 

"For years, we've encouraged students to come back and complete degrees. It's been a point of great pride that many of our athletes have done that," Folt said. "But we are now ready to make quite formal a program that will provide financial support and advising support for all of our former athletes."

Former athletes can begin applying for the program on Sept. 1, and they must have left the university in good academic standing to be considered. Complete Carolina will officially begin in the 2015-16 academic year. 

Those accepted will be offered financial support proportional to a student's athletics aid during initial enrollment, including tuition, fees, room, board and books. Those who left on full scholarship would get a full tuition benefit. Bubba Cunningham Cunningham: We want our students to complete degrees

"We're also expanding beyond our current advising to offer career support and counseling before, during and after they complete their degree," Folt said. "This, really, will extend for life. And it's our hope that all students will be able to return and be able to complete their degree."

She acknowledged that there are many unanswered questions about the breadth, cost and execution of such a program. 

"When you start building something you’re not sure about, you’re committed to making it work. So as we need, we will add," she said.

Steve Kirschner, UNC's senior associate athletic director for communications, said the university currently enrolls 465 students who participate athletics, with 300 of them on scholarship; 236 are full scholarships.

Bubba Cunningham, UNC's director of athletics, said the program creates a pathway for student-athletes who left before graduating

"Part of the national discussion is, 'What do we provide for students?' It’s an education," he said. "We want to fulfill that obligation for all students."

The NCAA has allowed schools to offer degree-completion programs to student-athletes who have run out of athletic eligibility since August 2012.

North Carolina State, Duke universities and others have similar programs in place.

Art Chase, of the Blue Devils athletics department, noted that a former baseball player who left Durham to play professionally is currently enrolled and expected to graduate in the fall.

"While each circumstance is administered individually, Duke has provided financial support, and will continue to do so moving forward, to those who return to complete their degree requirements after their eligibility has expired," Chase said.

Cunningham noted that not all former students would want to return to Chapel Hill.

"Some of our students will have difficulty finishing their degree at North Carolina. We need to look at an educational trust fund where they can finish their education somewhere else," he said. Rashad McCants at the UNC alumni game McCants: No free education

UNC leaders did not say if the move was motivated by recent comments by Rashad McCants, a Tar Heel basketball player on the 2005 national championship team, who told ESPN, "If I didn't receive a free education, ... there should be something that should come out of this."

While enrolled in Chapel Hill, McCants compared being a student-athlete to prison or a 9-to-5 job. "To get up, go to school, get in here, lift weights and play basketball. That's my 9 to 5," McCants told WRAL in 2004. 

In recent months, McCants has again been in the news, claiming he did not get the education he was promised at UNC. He told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that he rarely went to class, took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible and had tutors write his term papers. 

The university responded by inviting McCants to discuss his allegations with  former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein, who is leading the latest in a series of investigations into academic improprieties at UNC.

In her comments Thursday, Folt also mentioned that both Wainstein and the NCAA are making progress in their probes. 

"We know that (Kenneth Wainstein's investigation) will be coming to a close sometime soon. We are working to prepare for it, and I think it's exactly what we hoped and want it to be," Folt said. "The NCAA also announced that it was reopening its investigation into these issues. That wasn't a surprise...that, too, is proceeding in the way we would like and expect."

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  • dmccall Jul 28, 3:56 p.m.

    Where is the program to help people finish degrees who were not athletes? (you know, the ones who got into the university's front door, the ones for whom the university was chartered?)

  • vt94hokies Jul 25, 10:17 p.m.

    UNC-CH is perhaps the biggest cheating University ever.

  • glasswolf Jul 25, 9:19 p.m.

    Seeing as Les Robinson started the same program at state in 91-92 looks like the cheats are going to do things the "wolfpack way" now....welcome to the party carowhina

  • Alex25 Jul 25, 7:41 a.m.

    www.unccheats.com/facebook

  • Riddickfield Jul 25, 7:36 a.m.

    Hope it includes a course with coloring books and crayons....

    — Posted by katzpauz

    Dude, there are no books let alone classrooms in chapel hill, just A's and degrees handed out. Apparently you can make the dean's list without ever going to class there.

  • wolfbitesyourheels Jul 25, 6:49 a.m.

    Boy, the NCAA will really put UNC on a pedestal for this and probably pay them for having all the cheating committed in the name of looking after their athletes

  • vt94hokies Jul 24, 9:45 p.m.

    What a fraud. The most obvious distraction ever. It should be a given that athetes cam come back... View More

    — Posted by canz

    You're correct. And I totally agree. Another farce to keep this so-called esteemed school from looking so dismal in the eyes of future enrollees. They just want to up the percentage points for the University as being called graduates. The rankings in the academia has been going down for several years now. Look at the rankings each year. UNC is way below most in the ACC.

  • Objective Scientist Jul 24, 8:53 p.m.

    On the surface... this may sound good, but there are some issues:

    What about the "student"-athlete who failed to apply himself to legitimate courses, who focused on being an "athlete", who - using the resources of the university - improved his skills/knowledge/marketability as an athlete, and subsequently is making more money than even his multimillion dollar head coach? UNC is going to pay that guy's tuition and all other costs to continue to work on and finish his degree? That makes NO sense! On the other hand... an athlete who also applied himself as a student, with an appropriate balance between his academics and athletics, but due to the hours required of an athlete at the D-1 level was not able to carry a full academic load... and needs an additional year to complete his degree - providing that STUDENT-athlete with full financial support for the additional year... THAT makes sense!

  • canz Jul 24, 8:20 p.m.

    What a fraud. The most obvious distraction ever. It should be a given that athetes cam come back to finish their bogus degree.

    This is a complete separate issue from the cheating to keep athletes eligible, which was the whole point. They had non-existant classes to keep players on the field. The worst infraction a school could commit. Period. I assume these players dont have to actually go to class to finish their degree since they didnt go to class in the first place.

  • vt94hokies Jul 24, 7:15 p.m.

    Duke and loads of others have been doing this since the 70's.

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