Eligibility & Compliance

Student-athletes must meet various University and NCAA eligibility requirements.

The Student-Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group identified and compiled recommendations from reports over the past several years and linked each report recommendation to 21 academic processes. Report Recommendations for Eligibility & Compliance

11.0 Eligibility and Compliance

NCAA Initial Eligibility Standards

In order to meet the minimum initial requirements for Division I competition, prospective student-athletes enrolling in college must:

  • Graduate from high school
  • Complete 16 Core Courses, including 10 before the seventh high school semester
  • Earn a minimum 2.300 Grade-Point Average in high school core courses to compete during the first year of college
  • Earn a combined SAT or ACT score that matches the core-course GPA on the sliding scale.

If a student-athlete enrolls as an Academic Redshirt because they do not meet minimum requirements for competition, they may receive athletics aid in the first year of enrollment and may practice during the first regular academic term, but they may not compete during their first year of enrollment. At the conclusion of the first term, the student-athlete must be academically successful to continue to practice for the rest of the year.

Student-athletes are allowed five years to graduate college while receiving athletically related financial aid. All Division I student-athletes must earn at least six credit hours each term to be eligible for the following term, and must meet minimum grade-point average requirements that are related to an institution’s own GPA standards for graduation. To remain eligible in Division I, student-athletes must complete 40 percent of the coursework required for a degree by the end of their second year in college. They must complete 60 percent by the end of their third year and 80 percent by the end of their fourth year. Student-athletes are permitted to receive athletics aid past their fifth year of enrollment. The five-year window is more appropriately tied to seasons of competition.

Student-athletes at UNC must meet academic eligibility requirements in two or, in some cases, three distinct areas. First, a student-athlete must remain academically in good standing according to UNC’s academic eligibility requirements for all undergraduate students. Second, a student-athlete must meet National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) academic eligibility requirements in order to participate in competition. Finally, students who receive Federal Financial Aid (e.g., Pell Grants) must make satisfactory academic progress per federal standards; these standards are communicated by UNC’s Office of Student Scholarships and Aid. It is important to note that a student can be eligible in one of these areas but ineligible in another.

Process 11.0 addresses the first two of these three categories of eligibility requirements: UNC academic eligibility and NCAA academic eligibility. See http://studentaid.unc.edu/eligibility-for-aid/ for more information regarding Federal Financial Aid eligibility at UNC.

11.1 What are the University’s specific standards of eligibility?

UNC’s undergraduate academic eligibility policies are pursuant to the UNC System’s General Administration guidelines, “Fostering Undergraduate Student Success.” (UNC System Policy Manual Section 400.1.5)

UNC student academic status is determined through four standards of success:

  1. Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA): A cumulative UNC-Chapel Hill grade-point average of at least 2.000 is required.
  2. Completion Rate: Students must successfully complete at least 2/3 of cumulative attempted credit hours.
  3. Cumulative Hours Passed: Full-time undergraduates must have the following number of academic semester credit hours passed:
    • 9 academic hours to enter a second semester
    • 24 academic hours to enter a third semester (30 hours is recommended)
    • 36 academic hours to enter a fourth semester
    • 51 academic hours to enter a fifth semester (60 hours is recommended)
    • 63 academic hours to enter a sixth semester
    • 78 academic hours to enter a seventh semester (90 hours is recommended)
    • 93 academic hours to enter an eighth semester
    • Special permission of the dean to enter a ninth semester (105 hours is required)
  4. Maximum Timeframe: Students must complete their degree within 180 attempted credit hours.

There are four academic eligibility statuses:

  • Good Standing
  • Warning
  • Suspension
  • Probation

Academic Eligibility Rules 2016

For more information, go to http://studentsuccess.unc.edu

11.1.1 NCAA Division I GPA Requirements

Student-athletes must achieve 90 percent of the institution’s minimum overall grade-point average necessary to graduate (this average is 1.8 at UNC) by the beginning of the third and fourth semesters, 95 percent of the minimum GPA (1.9) by the beginning of the fifth and sixth semesters and 100 percent (2.0) by the beginning of the seventh and eighth semesters and beyond.

A student-athlete may compete if he/she has a cumulative GPA less than 2.0, is on academic probation, and the GPA meets the NCAA threshold. For example, a student-athlete entering his third semester with a 1.850 and on probation would be eligible to compete since the NCAA requirement is greater than 1.8. The student is on probation, but still in good standing at UNC.

11.2 What happens if a student becomes ineligible?

Undergraduate Retention in the Office of Undergraduate Education manages the academic eligibility of UNC undergraduate students and hears all appeals for reinstatement.

11.3 What resources are available to students?

The Office of Undergraduate Retention, in conjunction with departments across campus, coordinates numerous services and resources for students.

11.3.1 Carolina Firsts

Nearly 20 percent of all UNC undergraduate students are the first in their families to attend college. About 13 percent of first-year student athletes in the Fall 2014 cohort identified as first-generation college students. UNC offers a program called Carolina Firsts, which offers support and resources to first-generation college students.

Carolina Firsts Advocates are trained mentors who provide support and advice to first-generation students on topics such as success strategies, study skills, graduate school and professional networking. Advocates are not matched with students; rather, students may search the Carolina First Advocates site and contact an advocate of their choosing.

11.3.2 EDUC 130 - Navigating the Research University

Course EDUC 130, administered by the Office of Undergraduate Retention, provides students with the knowledge to succeed at a research University. Students consider what it means to have a liberal arts education and learn about motivation, resiliency and self-advocacy. Students reflect on their current work toward academic success and their path to graduation. The course considers the rights and responsibilities of a UNC student and what it means to be a member of this community.

  • EDUC 130 is offered during each semester and during Summer School for one academic credit (the course is graded).
  • EDUC 130 began in 2009 with one section as a pilot course in summer school. Currently UNC offers up to six sections of EDUC 130 during Fall and Spring semesters and during Summer School.
  • The course is suggested to students whom the Office of Undergraduate Retention supports (e.g., Carolina Covenant students, first generation students, students on academic probation, etc.)
  • Student feedback on course evaluations is consistently positive; students state that they wish they had taken the course earlier in their career at Carolina.

11.3.3 Bounce Back

Bounce Back is an optional program offered only to students on academic probation. Bounce Back groups (of no more than 12 students each) meet weekly with a member of the Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Wellness, or Undergraduate Retention. This non-credit, 10-week group is designed to help students strengthen their academic skills and maintain academic good standing. Bounce Back’s curriculum, which was developed at UC San Diego, focuses on building characteristics typical among resilient people.

Example topics:

  • Emotion regulation
  • Resiliency strategies
  • Normalizing help-seeking behavior

The Bounce Back program is strongly encouraged for all students on warning or probation, including athletes.

11.4 What are the specific standards for NCAA academic eligibility?

According to UNC’s policy regarding Certification of NCAA Academic Eligibility, the Chancellor is responsible for approving the procedures for certifying the eligibility of an institution’s student-athletes under NCAA legislation. UNC’s Chancellor has designated the Director of Athletics as the individual responsible for rules compliance, and the Director of Athletics has assigned oversight of the compliance program to the Senior Associate Athletics Director. As such, the staff of the Senior Associate Athletics Director, in the Department of Athletics Compliance Office, work in concert with the Office of the University Registrar’s and the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) to monitor academic compliance, audit course schedules and certify the eligibility of student-athletes.

11.4.1 Certification of Eligibility and the Eligibility Declaration Document

As the certifying officer for academic eligibility, the University Registrar is responsible for approving and signing the “Eligibility Declaration” to certify that student athletes meet all institutional and NCAA academic requirements for eligibility. Prior to the generation of an “Eligibility Declaration,” the Compliance Office verifies that all other eligibility requirements have been met for each student-athlete (e.g., drug testing consent form, amateurism certification, etc.) Eligibility Declarations are distributed by the Compliance Office to other Department of Athletics entities to ensure that all appropriate individuals (e.g., sports medicine, strength and conditioning, coaches, etc.) are aware of who is and who is not eligible for practice and/or competition.

The Compliance Office serves as the interpretative authority on campus in determining the application of NCAA rules when the Registrar is uncertain how they may impact academic eligibility. The Compliance Office consults the Conference and the NCAA as needed.

The Compliance Office also coordinates all NCAA and ACC waivers (i.e. Initial-Eligibility and Progress-Toward-Degree waivers with the NCAA and Medical Hardship/International Competition waivers with the ACC) and presents them to the Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) for approval. Compliance shares documentation of waivers and transfer tracers with the ASPSA Academic Counselors and the Registrar’s Office. (Note: Transfer tracers are not presented to the FAR for approval.)

Certification of NCAA academic eligibility falls into three distinct processes:

  1. Certification of Initial Academic Eligibility of Student-Athletes Prior to Initial Full-Time Enrollment
  2. Certification of Continuing Academic Eligibility of Transfer Student-Athletes
  3. Progress Toward Degree Certification of Continuing Student-Athletes (including certification for post-season competition)

11.4.2 Certification of Initial Academic Eligibility of Student-Athletes Prior to Initial Full-Time Enrollment

Student-athletes register with the NCAA’s Eligibility Center, usually at the end of their junior year of high school. Once a student chooses a school to attend, that school accesses their eligibility status via the NCAA’s Eligibility Center. The Department of Athletics Compliance Office can access the academic record of any prospective student-athlete (PSA) who registers with the Eligibility Center. Generally, the Compliance Office accesses the academic records for PSAs that are being recruited as opposed to those who have already committed to attend. The NCAA produces a report (48C) to reflect a student-athlete’s eligibility status. The ASPSA, the Registrar and the Compliance Office access 48C information using LSDBi, the NCAA’s web-based legislative database.

The Department of Athletics Compliance Office manages all team certification of eligibility processes to ensure accuracy. The Compliance Office compiles and updates team squad lists in a system called Compliance Assistant, and they use ACS Athletics for compliance tracking.

When team rosters are finalized and academic eligibility certification is executed (prioritized based on the team’s first date of competition), the Office of the University Registrar confirms certification of initial academic eligibility by reviewing the 48C forms. The Registrar’s Office has two designated full-time staff members, NCAA Eligibility Certification Specialists, who manage certification of eligibility for Carolina’s 800 student-athletes. They use the Athletic Eligibility Page in ConnectCarolina to document and track NCAA and UNC student-athlete eligibility. Student-athlete eligibility must be certified prior to the first date of competition.


11.4.3 Certification of Initial NCAA Academic Eligibility of Transfer Student-Athletes

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions makes all determinations regarding whether a student’s coursework can be transferred to UNC. The Compliance Office and the ASPSA review course credits for all transfers to determine whether they meet NCAA eligibility rules (see below for more information regarding degree applicable hours). They consult with the University Registrar as needed during this preliminary review. The Compliance Office acts as a liaison between UNC officials who determine degree credit (i.e., Advisors from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the School of Journalism, etc.) and advises recruiting coordinators and/or coaches on potential application of NCAA transfer rules in determining whether a student-athlete will require additional credit hours to transfer. If more hours are needed, the student may need to take more courses before they can come to UNC, or they may be required to provide syllabi for specific courses to determine if those courses fulfill UNC requirements. The Compliance Office and the ASPSA provide a final list of transfer student-athletes to the University Registrar, who certifies them for continuing eligibility. Once an initial certification determination has been made, transfer student-athletes matriculate to UNC and become part of the continuing team cohort.

11.4.4 Continuing Academic Eligibility

NCAA eligibility rules apply to all student-athletes regardless of their athletic scholarship status. NCAA eligibility regarding GPA and credit hours earned are different from UNC’s eligibility rules. 6-Hour Rule

The NCAA requires that all student-athletes* successfully complete a minimum of 6 credits of degree applicable hours during each semester of full-time enrollment or they will be ineligible for the following regular semester.

*For football, student-athletes must complete 9 hours (not 6 hours) in the fall term to be able to compete in all games in the following fall term.  If they do not earn 9 hours, they can earn 27 hours from fall through summer to use a one-time football exception that will allow them to compete in all games.  If they do not earn 27 hours, then they will not be able to compete in the first four games during the following fall term. 18-Hour Rule

The NCAA requires that all student-athletes successfully complete 18 credits of degree applicable hours since the previous Fall term or the certifying institution’s preceding regular two semesters. If a student-athlete fails to meet this requirement during the academic year, hours earned during the summer may not be used to meet this requirement. 24-Hour Rule (first-year)

Incoming student-athletes must successfully complete 24 credits of degree applicable hours prior to the start of the student-athlete’s second year of enrollment (third semester). Percentage of Degree for Eligibility to Compete

  • Entering the fifth semester, a student must have earned 48 credits of degree applicable hours or 40% of the 120 hours required for graduation
  • Entering the seventh semester, a student must have earned 72 credits of degree applicable hours or 60% of the 120 hours required for graduation
  • Entering a ninth semester (when applicable), a student must have earned 96 credits of degree applicable hours or 80% of the 120 hours required for graduation GPA Rule for Eligibility to Compete

  • Entering their 3rd and 4th semesters of full-time enrollment, a student-athlete shall present a minimum cumulative Grade Point Average equivalent to 90% of the GPA needed to graduate from UNC (1.8).
  • Entering their 5th and 6th semesters of full-time enrollment, a student-athlete shall present a minimum cumulative Grade Point Average equivalent to at least 95% of the GPA needed to graduate from UNC (1.9).
  • Entering their 7th and all subsequent full-time terms, a student-athlete shall present a minimum cumulative Grade Point Average equivalent to at least 100% of the GPA needed to graduate from UNC (2.0). Progress Toward Degree Certification for Eligibility to Compete (includes certification for post-season competition)

  • The Registrar and ASPSA Academic Counselors for each team keep records for continuing certification of eligibility for each student-athlete.
  • Both offices compare course schedule information for each student-athlete during the first half of each term to audit certification information and ensure accuracy.
  • After discussing each team with the representatives in the ASPSA whose duties include certification of eligibility, the Registrar’s Office certifies student-athletes for competition.
  • When a student-athlete’s certification is confirmed, the Registrar signs a Declaration of Eligibility and forwards this information to the Department of Athletics Compliance Office.
  • The Compliance Office examines eligibility status, academic and otherwise, for all student-athletes and then sends out an eligibility memorandum to coaches, the ASPSA, strength coaches, equipment managers, etc., alerting them to the athletes on each team roster who are eligible to practice and/or compete.

11.5 NCAA Requirements for Degree Applicable Credit

Student-athletes have a limited number of credit hours that will count as degree applicable for NCAA eligibility certification purposes. Any elective hours beyond the minimum amount necessary to complete their degree do not count toward NCAA progress toward degree requirements.

11.5.1 Monitoring Electives

Within their first two years of enrollment, student-athletes are permitted to count all credit hours as degree applicable in eligibility certification. The limit on elective hours generally does not affect eligibility until the beginning of a student’s fifth semester. Appropriate planning must take place during the first two years of enrollment regarding elective hours used so that there is greater flexibility once a student-athlete is required to meet percentage of degree requirements.

The number of allowable elective hours varies depending on a student-athlete’s major and academic record. For instance, a student-athlete who needs to complete level 3 for the general education foreign language requirement due to placement will have more allowable elective hours than someone who must take levels 1, 2 and 3, if all else were equal.

Similarly, a student-athlete pursuing a program of study that requires a larger number of major courses will be left with fewer allowable elective hours. For instance, a student-athlete pursuing a BA in Communication Studies will have approximately 40 allowable elective hours while a student-athlete pursuing a BS in Biology will have approximately 18 allowable elective hours. By Exam (BE) credit, such as Advanced Placement credit, plays a significant role since any such credit that does not fulfill a general education or major requirement must be counted as an elective. Thus, BE credit could use up much of a student-athlete’s allowable elective hours. This problem is often compounded because student-athletes who matriculate with BE credit often choose to pursue more demanding majors, which already provide for limited elective hours.

11.5.2 Double Majors

NCAA certification is based on a student-athlete’s primary major. The second major is used to determine eligibility only if a student-athlete is ineligible based on his/her primary major. When certifying a student-athlete who has declared two majors within the same degree program, the institution may, but is not required to, include course requirements applicable to both majors for purposes of calculating percentage of degree, provided the student-athlete would be permitted to graduate without completing both majors. If a student-athlete is ineligible based on the primary major alone and the second major alone, then the majors can be combined if they are in the same degree program (BA, BS, etc.) and the total number of hours required to complete the program would be increased and used to determine NCAA eligibility. When certifying progress-toward-degree requirements for a student-athlete who has declared two majors within the same degree program, the institution may, but is not required to, include course requirements applicable to both majors for purposes of calculating percentage of degree (i.e., increase the number of credit hours in the denominator, provided the student-athlete would be permitted to graduate without completing both majors (i.e., upon completion of one major or the other). Further, if an institution chooses to include only the requirements necessary to graduate with one of the majors in the percentage-of-degree calculation, then the institution must count only credits applicable to that major when determining fulfillment of the credit-hour requirements. Finally, if an institution includes course requirements applicable to both majors when calculating percentage of degree (i.e., increases the number of credit hours in the denominator), then credits earned toward either major may be used to meet credit-hour requirements.

11.6 How is certification of eligibility monitored?

Athletic certification is performed by two full-time NCAA Eligibility Specialists in the Office of the University Registrar. The Registrar’s Office uses the Athletic Eligibility Page in ConnectCarolina. They use this tool to track academic progress and eligibility status for each student-athlete, by term. The tool also provides reporting and administrative functions.

The ASPSA uses its own Access database to monitor student-athlete information, including certification and eligibility, and reconciles its data with the Registrar.

During each semester, the two NCAA Eligibility Specialists in the Office of the University Registrar and two Academic Counselors in the ASPSA prepare an academic worksheet for each of UNC’s 800 student-athletes. Each worksheet is reviewed and cross referenced for certification of eligibility and degree applicable credit. This dual process ensures effective checks and balances from two separate departments throughout the process.

Additionally, the certification of eligibility process is reviewed by the Faculty Athletics Committee and the Faculty Athletics Representative (see more information regarding Compliance, ASPSA and Registrar Engagement, or CARE, below).

11.7 Coordination and Communication between faculty, the Registrar, the ASPSA, the Compliance Office

The Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) meets regularly with representatives from the Office of the University Registrar, the Department of Athletics Compliance Office and the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA). This group, called CARE (Compliance, Athletics and Registrar Engagement) meets regularly throughout the Fall and Spring terms.

Convened by the Faculty Athletic Representative, CARE meetings are attended by:

  • Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR)
  • Representatives from the Office of the University Registrar
  • The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes
  • Representatives from the Athletics Compliance Office

CARE agenda items include:

  • Certification and schedule audit timelines for each team/counselor
  • Discussion/discernment of issues, risk cases
  • Education/training on curriculum and degree requirements, as well as changes to NCAA eligibility legislation
  • Ongoing NCAA rules education
  • Specific recommendations for academic support for student-athletes (e.g., major selection, career planning support, networking, plans for graduate school)

11.8 Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974

Please see the University’s policies and procedures regarding FERPA

Statement from the Faculty Athletics Committee (FAC) regarding protected student information:

Protected information is not within the right of any University employee to make public unless authorized by the students.

The FAC calls on all UNC employees to maintain the integrity of student records and to refrain from demeaning student academic performance through selective, unauthorized release of protected information. The work of many elected and appointed groups of faculty includes reviewing student information and monitoring ongoing changes that will strengthen the academic experience for all students and specifically for students participating in our sports programs. We have accepted the broader issue related to past academic integrity problems. This monitoring and investigating indicates the commitment to making it right, but these activities should not happen at the expense of students. Upholding student privacy is a principle our Committee takes seriously.

11.9 Redshirt Athletes and Additional Semester Approvals

“Redshirts” practice with their team but do not compete with their team, leaving them with additional semesters of NCAA eligibility. In 2014-2015 UNC had approximately 151 student-athletes appearing on rosters in their fifth year. Further, in 2014-2015, UNC had 142 student-athletes redshirt. Redshirting does not occur only in the first year.

To accommodate additional semesters of athletic eligibility at UNC, student-athletes who redshirt must submit an appeal to the College of Arts and Sciences.

11.9.1 Additional Semester Guidelines and Appeal Form

Except for rare and extenuating circumstances, students have eight semesters of full-time enrollment to complete requirements for a degree program. Students requiring an additional semester should complete and submit an Additional Semester Appeal Form through the Academic Advising website with a statement explaining why they cannot graduate in eight semesters. An advisor in the Graduation Division confirms their outstanding degree requirements, and the Associate Dean compares their record with their statement and makes a decision.

Students who exceed 8 terms in residence may be subject to a 50% tuition surcharge, applied to all counted credit hours in excess of 140 hours.

To see types of appeals typically granted, and those that are not, consult the Additional Semester Information webpage or view the handout.

Reasons an Additional Semester May Be Granted:

  • Transfer transition and awarding of credits
  • Veteran transition issues
  • Medical/psychological issues (including documented learning disability)
  • Struggle with academic progress
  • Course sequencing
  • Redshirt athletes
  • Student-athletes who have been granted a medical hardship waiver or who have been granted other eligibility exceptions may also fit into this category
  • Student teaching (UNC Best Program)
  • Financial issues (Summer School too expensive)
  • Change of major
  • Student required/asked to stay at UNC for authorized reason (e.g., ROTC, unique campus leadership opportunity, etc.)
  • Study abroad opportunity
  • Honors Thesis

Reasons an Additional Semester May NOT be Granted:

  • Student can finish in summer school
  • Student can transfer in a final course(s)
  • Student can finish online
  • Student has failed to progress multiple times
  • Student is academically ineligible

For more information, see Faculty Council Resolution 2017-1 on Removing the Restrictions on Graduation with Multiple Areas of Study for Students Enrolling in a Ninth Semester or Beyond (1/27/17)