“We want to help people understand the steps they can take,” Farmer said. “We don't want there to be any surprises.”
Farmer said discussions around improving UNC’s readmission policies are a few years in the making. In particular, he highlighted a report produced by the Mental Health Task Force last semester that outlined issues identified by UNC students about the re-enrollment process.
Senior Emma Caponigro, who served on the Policies and Procedures Subcommittee of the Mental Health Task Force, said the group solicited feedback from several mental health organizations on campus. Some of the greatest student concerns included a lack of clarity on timelines for loan availability, visa considerations for international students and academic holds.
Caponigro also said the committee looked into best practices at public and private schools across the country and found that students tend to find items like detailed readmission checklists especially helpful.
Asia Chance, who returned to UNC as a full-time student last semester, said while they believe the current checklist is useful in outlining what documentation is needed to re-enroll, it isn’t beneficial in helping students readjust to campus life. Specifically, they believe there needs to be greater emphasis on open communication between offices so that necessary resources are already in place when a student returns to campus.
Chance, who took a medical withdrawal during their junior year, said they had to fight to be cleared for Accessibility Resources and Service accommodations, despite having worked with Counseling and Psychological Services during the withdrawal and re-enrollment process.
“I had to start from scratch and give them my entire situation,” Chance said. “Which meant, again, getting more documentation from my therapist, making more documentation for myself when it could have been much easier if departments were speaking with each other.”
Chance said when they returned to UNC, they also found that their second major and minor had been dropped, which made it difficult to get into classes required to complete their desired degrees.
Caponigro said although she’s interested to see how the University has incorporated the task force's policy recommendations to Return to Carolina, she’s worried about the longevity of certain revisions.
“If they don't have the funding to implement all of these changes, I'm afraid that a lot of this work will go to waste,” Caponigro said.
Farmer acknowledged that readmissions practices haven’t typically had a University-wide coordinated effort, but he believes student feedback will be integral in ensuring Return to Carolina can evolve to best fit the needs of undergraduates.
“We would like to have the pieces in place so that whether a student is starting out at the University for the first time, or whether a student is coming back to the University to finish what she started, we have the people in place, (and) we have the pieces in place to know the student's story, to respect the student, to understand what the student really needs and to work in partnership with the student so the student can do what they want and need to do,” Farmer said.
On average, 400 to 500 students re-enroll at UNC per year, Farmer said. He said the University is dedicated to ensuring those students successfully complete their degrees.
“When students apply to UNC as first-year, transfer students, when they earn admission and enroll, they can come here confident that they earned their places here,” Farmer said. “... We don't want to make it really, really hard for people who've already earned their place at UNC to come back and finish what they started.”