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UNC reveals academic data on student-athlete performance in report to BOG

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the average difference in graduation rates between student-athlete and non-student athlete students at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The correct average difference is 19 percent. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story misrepresented the student-athlete graduation rate at UNC. While student-athletes at UNC do graduate at a lower rate than the general student body, the rate is comparable to student-athletes at other UNC-system schools. This article has been updated with the correct context, as well as specific graduation rates. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

At this week’s meeting of the Board of Governors, the Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programming unveiled a report on transparency in college athletics.

As part of their commission for the fair treatment of student-athletes, the NCAA requires annual reports tracking the progress and graduation rates of all undergraduate students. The report revealed that student-athletes at ECU and UNC-Charlotte had a higher six-year graduation rate — 66 percent and 71 percent respectively — than those in the general student population for the past few years, 63 percent for ECU and 55 percent for UNC-Charlotte. Student-athletes at UNC graduated at a comparable rate to student-athletes at other schools at 68 percent, but graduated at a lower rate compared to its general student body at 89 percent. 

Whereas non-student-athletes are only required to meet with an adviser during their first semester and once more at the beginning of their sixth or seventh semester, student-athletes enrolled in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences are required to meet with an adviser every semester.

“There definitely isn’t a lack of advising for athletes, we get a good amount of resources through Loudermilk that the average UNC student does not,"  Ari Krayzman, a rising sophomore on the fencing team, said. "So those of us that are actually here for school get a leg up on academics." 

During these academic advising sessions, student-athletes receive personalized assistance that consists of four general focal points: major and minor exploration, learning abilities and preferences, educational goals, and self-assessment and identity development. In addition, a University Career Services counselor provides office hours in the student-athlete academic facility once a week, giving student-athletes additional opportunities to learn more about their majors. 

Mary-O Soule, a rising junior on the swim team, said academic advising is a need-based system.

"If you need someone to help keep you on track there is someone on top of it, but some people do not need it as much," she said.

The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes also provides student-athletes with numerous other academic services such as priority registration, tutoring, institutional and NCAA eligibility tracking, and coordination of academic honors and awards. 

"The resources and guidance we are given is amazing and has really helped me manage such a busy schedule as a student-athlete,"  Cooper Graham, a rising junior on the football team, said.

At ECU, student-athletes are provided academic support services through the Student Development Office. These services include organized study halls, weekly updates with academic coordinators, career development services, seminars regarding study skills, a freshman transition course and access to a learning specialist, learning technologies and tutors and mentors.

Upon enrollment at UNC-Charlotte, student-athletes are provided a “progress to degree” (PTD) sheet produced based on their intended major. The PTD is updated every semester then discussed with the student-athlete to allow them to see what their actual time to degree will be based on their year and academic transcript. If a student-athlete is getting off track, their options are discussed. This “actual real time to degree piece” is “not regularly available” to non-student-athletes, according to the report. 

Like UNC, the general student population at North Carolina State also has a higher six-year graduation rate than that of its student-athletes. However, at NC State, an average of 13 percent more non-student-athletes are graduating in six years than student-athletes, compared to an average of 19 precent more non-student-athletes than student-athletes graduating in six years at UNC

Starting in 2014, the UNC system began flagging sections of classes composed of 25 percent or more of student-athletes.

At UNC, a committee examines the transcripts of student-athletes in these course sections to look for irregularities. 

In the 2017-18 school year the University had 173 sections which “met or exceeded the 25 percent threshold for student-athlete enrollments,” up from 159 sections in 2016-17 and 157 in 2015-16.

Transcripts of athletes who were “enrolled in three or more clustered sections” were reviewed by the school, and in all cases it seems that “none of them was found to be irregular.” 

Rising sophomore fencer Julia Parzecki said her academic counselor helped her keep up with her schoolwork as a freshman. 

"I have had at least one other athlete in the classes that I have taken," Parzecki said. "I am taking what you could call 'athlete classes' next semester."

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