Thursday, January 9, 2014

UNC-CH failing athletes and taxpayers

Just when you think you've dug out the last of the academic and moral rot at North Carolina's "flagship" university, another chunk of the school's reputation crumbles.

CNN reports on the woeful literacy skills and achievement of athletes in public universities
A CNN investigation found public universities across the country where many students in the basketball and football programs could read only up to an eighth-grade level. The data obtained through open records requests also showed a staggering achievement gap between college athletes and their peers at the same institution.
and illustrates its case with UNC Chapel Hill.
As a graduate student at UNC-Greensboro, (Mary) Willingham researched the reading levels of 183 UNC-Chapel Hill athletes who played football or basketball from 2004 to 2012. She found that 60% read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. Between 8% and 10% read below a third-grade level.
Willingham is certainly an impeachable source, having contributed to the cheating scandal at UNC-CH. However, even if only a portion of what she has reported is true, she casts quite an indictment against the school and its athletic programs.

And as the CNN story makes clear, UNC-CH has a lot of company.

Nevertheless, UNC-CH's admissions practices do a shameful disservice to the affected athletes. It's one thing to open the doors of opportunity as wide as possible. It's quite another to use the unpaid services of students whose limited reading and writing skills give them almost no chance of succeeding academically.

The practices are also a disservice to the state's taxpayers, who subsidize each athlete to the tune of thousands of dollars per year. Yes, boosters fund scholarships for the athletes, but those scholarships cover only a portion of the cost of attending the university. NC taxpayers kick in the rest.

Regrettably, UNC-CH will likely continue to do whatever skeevy things it is going to do. Students and alumni should be outraged that the value of their degrees are being tarnished, but they seem too busy trying to snatch up football and basketball tickets to notice.

While the school, the athletes, the students, and the alumni are content with this, there are no reasons why it has to be underwritten by taxpayers.

The UNC system, consisting of UNC-CH and its 16 sister schools, has minimum admission requirements that involve specified high school coursework (e.g., four years of English courses and two years of another language), minimum GPAs, and minimum test scores. The state should eliminate funding for all athletic scholarship students who fail to meet these requirements.

Better yet, UNC-CH should re-dedicate itself to its educational mission.