Board of Trustees tip sheet for July 24

CORRECTION: A former version of this article misattributed quotes said by athletic director Bubba Cunningham. The article has been updated to reflect these changes. 

The door has always been open.

Student-athletes who leave the University before graduating have historically been invited to return later and complete their degrees: once a Tar Heel, always a Tar Heel. 

The door just opened a little wider.

Through Complete Carolina, a new program announced at Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting, returning student-athletes will retain the same scholarships and advising support they enjoyed before they left.

Returning student athletes will be compensated for tuition, fees, room, board and books. The program is open to any students who withdrew from the University in good academic standing and meet the program requirements. 

A press release about the program did not delineate the program requirements. Applications for Complete Carolina will be accepted starting Sept. 1. 

'The dream'

Student-athletes currently have a graduation rate of about 90 percent, said Bubba Cunningham, the athletic director at UNC. 

"The dream is that every single student that comes to Carolina will be able to find their way to get a great, wonderful education," Chancellor Carol Folt said. 

Folt and Cunningham said the University has not tracked exactly how many student-athletes have gone back for degrees, but record-keeping will improve with Complete Carolina.

"We know we've had about 30 or 40 just in the last eight or 10 years," Cunningham said. "We have students each semester coming back to get some credits, so that number will continue to grow."

Folt said her conversations with student-athletes who have already returned and completed their degrees helped convince her of the value of the new program.

"I tend to think if those students were satisfied, if we can reach students that didn't come back — part of this is encouraging them to come back, so I think we're going to look for them and have them realize that they too can do it," she said.

A tough summer

The announcement comes on the heels of a tough summer for the Athletic Department.

In June, former men's basketball player Rashad McCants told the world he took many paper classes during his time at UNC. 

And administrators are still awaiting the findings of former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein's months-long probe into allegations of academic improprieties at the University — accusations that started when UNC athletes were found to be working with professional sports agents who paid for them to party at lavish Miami nightclubs.

But Cunningham said the new program will promote a collegiate model over a professional model for UNC athletes, emphasizing that they are students first.

"We are committed to ensuring that our students get a great education, at least have the opportunity to get a great education, if they want."

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