Some student-athletes at UNC schools get admitted despite not meeting the minimum admission requirements. The university system counts these students as “exceptions.”
The system’s universal minimum admission requirements—which are the same for athletes and non-athletes—have undergone some recent changes. In March 2020, the board of governors voted to temporarily change the minimum requirements (as a three-year pilot).
Prior to that 2020 vote, in order to be considered for admittance, all applicants had to have a minimum GPA of 2.5 (a “C+” average) and an SAT score of 880 (or ACT score of 17).
After the vote, applicants must now have a minimum GPA of 2.5 or an SAT score of 1010 (or ACT score of 19).
In addition, in order to be admitted, freshman applicants must have completed some core coursework in high school.
However, if promising athletes are unable to meet either the minimum admission requirement (MAR) or the minimum course requirement (MCR), a limited number of them may be granted a waiver (if approved by the chancellor). The UNC system is obligated to report the number of these exceptions in its intercollegiate athletics and financial transparency report. The report is typically presented to the Board of Governors annually, but due to Covid-19, the 2021 report includes two academic years: 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.
According to the 2019 report, a total of 1,289 recruited freshman student-athletes enrolled at UNC System institutions in 2017-2018, and of those students:
- 18 (1.4 percent) received an MCR exception; and
- 45 (3.5 percent) received an MAR exception.
In 2018-19, a total of 1,336 recruited freshman student-athletes enrolled at UNC System institutions. Of those students:
- 16 (1.2 percent) received an MCR exception; and
- 32 (2.4 percent) received an MAR exception.
In 2019-20, a total of 1,366 recruited freshman student-athletes enrolled at UNC System institutions. Of those students:
- 22 (1.6 percent) received an MCR exception; and
- 31 (2.3 percent) received an MAR exception.
The Martin Center has previously written about how giving academic waivers to student-athletes conflicts with the university’s core educational mission. All students who gain admittance to the university should be held up to the same academic standards. The UNC system should swiftly repeal this policy.
Shannon Watkins is associate editor at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal