My understanding is this is not the first such program in the country. Indiana apparently announced something similar earlier this year. Still, it is a move in the right direction and a direct response to someone like Rashad McCants who has complained he didn't receive a proper education.
From UNC's release:
For former student-athletes who withdrew from the University in good academic standing, Complete Carolina will provide financial support commensurate to their scholarship, including tuition, fees, room, board and books. Returning students will also be placed in an enhanced advising program to provide comprehensive academic advising and career planning before, during and after their return to Carolina. Individualized plans for former student-athletes will also be developed to maximize each student’s success on campus, similar to the recently implemented MAP (My Academic Plan) program for current student-athletes.
"Many student-athletes have spoken to me about how their Carolina degrees have enabled them to reach their personal ambitions. Complete Carolina creates a pathway for student-athletes who left before graduating to find their way back to Carolina and complete their degree. It builds on Carolina’s commitment – from recruiting through degree completion – to ensure all student-athletes at UNC-Chapel Hill have the opportunity to pursue an exceptional education," said Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham.
Complete Carolina is part of an ongoing, campus-wide effort to bolster support for student-athletes. This is also part of a broader initiative being developed to enhance advising and support for degree completion and career counseling for all students at Carolina.
Former student-athletes interested in returning to UNC-Chapel Hill to complete their undergraduate degrees can learn more at www.GoHeels.com.
Scholarship costs for Complete Carolina are funded by UNC’s Department of Athletics. Campus offices providing program support include: Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, Student Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences Academic Advising Program, Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes and Student-Athlete Development.
-Program participation is available to scholarship student-athletes who withdrew from the University in good academic standing and meet program requirements.
-Financial support will be provided commensurate to a student’s athletics aid during initial enrollment as a student-athlete, including tuition, fees, room, board and books.
-Applications will be accepted beginning Sept. 1, 2014.
McCants has said UNC owes him $10 million because he was exploited and didn't receive a proper education. The thinking, at least here at THB, is McCants' ramblings about receiving money was a precursor to a potential lawsuit against UNC. As I noted at the time and as UNC's new program illustrates, the only person stopping someone from getting an education is that person. Granted, prior to this program, a person would need to bear a financial burden in returning to finish a degree which may have been a hindrance to some. What UNC is proposing here removes any such obstacles. In short, if an athlete wants a degree then he can still get one. That is providing he is willing to put in the work like former Tar Heel Marvin Williams who will soon graduate with a UNC degree nine years after leaving Chapel Hill.
Ultimately this program makes a lot of sense. It's not like there isn't money to fund this sort of thing because at the end of the day most of the athletes who would avail themselves of this are in men's basketball, football and baseball. In the other sports where a professional career in the sport of choice isn't a possibility for most, those athletes tend to take care of their academic business because they need the degree to "go pro in something other than sports" as the NCAA likes to say. Such a program would potentially only need to serve a small number of athletes. And whatever the cost, it's well worth it to be able to provide a path to a degree for former athletes which better fulfills the primary mission of the school.