Supporting Non-Participant Student-Athletes

Reviewed 12/2022 

UNC’s commitment to student-athletes’ academic success continues even if an athlete chooses to leave the University before completion of degree. 

19.0 Supporting Non-Participant Student-Athletes

A student-athlete may cease to participate in his/her sport for various reasons, including medical disqualification and the decision to pursue a career in professional athletics. This section describes the support that UNC provides to non-participant student-athletes. The Department of Athletics tracks full-time enrollment of non-participant student-athletes for scholarship purposes, although their enrollment status is no longer important for practice or competition compliance. 

19.1 Athletics Aid When a Student-Athlete’s Status Changes

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has rules specific to when athletics aid can and cannot be cancelled (at any time) or non-renewed (once per year). Athletics aid cannot be reduced or cancelled due only to a student’s athletic performance. 

After the period of an athletic scholarship expires, a coach may decide not to renew a student’s scholarship for the following academic year. That student is no longer on the team roster. He/she has the opportunity to appeal the coach’s decision to a committee from the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid (external to the Department of Athletics). 

A coach must complete a “Change of Status” form for any changes to the team, e.g., if a student-athlete is added to the team; is cut, quits or is dismissed from the team; withdraws from UNC; exhausts eligibility; or goes professional. The coach submits the form to the Department of Athletics Compliance Office. 

The Compliance Office applies specific guidelines to non-participant student-athletes with scholarship agreements. 

Cut from the team – when a student is no longer on the team based on athletic ability, the student keeps athletics aid. 

Quit the team – when a student quits the team on his/her own, it is the head coach’s decision whether the student will keep athletics aid for the remainder of the year, or if the aid will be prorated based on the quit date. 

Dismissed from the team – when a student is no longer on the team due to non-athletic reasons, the student’s aid is at the discretion of the head coach and/or sport program administrator. 

Withdraws from UNC – when a student leaves the University on his/her own, both equivalency and headcount scholarships may be adjusted according to UNC’s withdrawal date guidelines. (For more information regarding headcount vs. equivalency scholarships, please see Process 3.0 Financial Aid). 

If a student-athlete exhausts eligibility or joins a professional teamwhile he/she is still eligible, he/she usually continues to receive athletics aid if he/she remains continuously enrolled at UNC (e.g., summer school). This decision is at the discretion of the head coach and/or sport program administrator. 

Based on current NCAA legislation, if a student-athlete’s status changes mid-semester, his/her athletics aid may not be allocated to another student-athlete. In most cases if a student-athlete’s status changes but he/she remains continuously enrolled at UNC, the coach will allow the student-athlete to continue to receive athletics aid, as the aid cannot be given to another student.  In some cases, if a student-athlete withdraws from UNC at the end of the Fall semester, and does not return for the Spring semester, the coach could award another student-athlete the aid for the Spring semester. 

Any time athletics aid is reduced or canceled the student-athlete must be notified in writing and has the option to appeal. Notification of reduction or cancellation and the right to appeal comes from the Office of Student Scholarship and Aid. 

19.2 Non-participants due to injury (medical disqualification)

A student-athlete on an athletics scholarship who becomes permanently medically disqualified from participation in his/her sport continues to receive athletics aid. Athletics scholarships for medically disqualified student-athletes are reviewed and renewed/non-renewed annually, similar to that of a student-athlete with eligibility remaining. However, athletics aid received by a student-athlete who has been medically disqualified does not count against team financial aid limitations. Non-renewals of aid would likely only occur if a medically disqualified student-athlete becomes academically ineligible or engages in serious misconduct subject to disciplinary penalty. 

Medically disqualified student-athletes on athletics scholarships who continue to receive athletics aid are coded in UNC’s student data system, PeopleSoft, as a “medical non-counter.” Although no longer able to practice or compete, Athletics continues to track the full-time enrollment status of medical non-counters. Walk-on student-athletes who quit or are cut from a team are no longer tracked. 

The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) provides continued academic support to medical non-counters. In most cases, the ASPSA continues to support a student who is no longer on the team roster to the completion of the semester. However, there are some exceptions, so each case is reviewed individually. 

19.3 Non-participants due to plans to pursue professional athletics

Student-athletes who withdraw from the University to join a professional team typically leave at the end of a term. At that time the student-athlete must contact the Registrar and cancel all future registration. If a student-athlete decides to return to UNC, he/she must apply for readmission via the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and contact the Department of Athletics. The College of Arts and Sciences Academic Advising Program (AAP) and the ASPSA will coordinate with the student-athlete to plan for degree completion (see 19.4 Complete Carolina below). 

19.4 The Path to Graduation: Complete Carolina

UNC’s commitment to student-athletes’ academic success continues even if they choose to leave the University before completing their undergraduate degree. For years, the University has welcomed returning student-athletes who wish to pursue their diplomas, and many student-athletes have returned to UNC and graduated. 

UNC’s Department of Athletics enhanced and formalized its commitment to degree completion with the creation of Complete Carolina in fall 2014. Complete Carolina provides financial support for degree completion, academic advising and career counseling to qualifying student-athletes who wish to return to UNC. The program’s goal is to encourage all student-athletes to graduate and make the process more accessible. 

19.4.1 UNC Offices Involved with Complete Carolina

  1. Department of Athletics Compliance Office manages Complete Carolina and is the first point of contact for former student-athletes interested in Complete Carolina. They determine whether former student-athletes qualify for participation in the program and they coordinate and communicate with other offices to ensure timely progress toward graduation. Additionally, the Compliance Office educates and enforces all aspects of NCAA compliance for the Complete Carolina Program.
  2. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions receives applications for readmission and advises former student-athletes on transfer credit. Admissions communicates all readmissions decisions.
  3. The Office of Scholarships and Student Aid (OSSA) Coordinates with the Compliance Office to package former student-athletes’ aid and ensures that former student-athletes receive the correct proportion of need-based vs. athletics aid.
  4. The College of Arts and Sciences Academic Advising Program (AAP) advises former student-athletes regarding institutional academic eligibility, course planning and degree audit for graduation.
  5. The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) assigns Complete Carolina participants to a specific Academic Counselor based on their former team and partners with the Academic Advising Program to help former student-athletes with course and major selection. The ASPSA also provides academic support services as needed.
  6. The Office of Undergraduate Education coordinates with Undergraduate Admissions and the AAP to determine former student-athletes’ institutional academic eligibility. 
  7. The Dean of Students Office and the Office of Student Conduct determines whether a former student-athlete may return to UNC based on any disciplinary and/or honor court proceedings.
  8. The Department of Athletics Office of Student-Athlete Development provides career services resources for former student-athletes in the Complete Carolina program.

19.4.2 Readmission

All Complete Carolina students must apply for readmission to the University through the Undergraduate Admissions Office and meet the following requirements for readmission:

  • Student may not have any financial holds or outstanding fines  (e.g., parking fees).
  • Student must be in good academic standing according to institutional requirements implemented in 2007.
  • If a student is not academically eligible, it must be mathematically possible and realistic for him/her to become eligible (raise their cumulative GPA to 2.0) within one semester.

If a student is not in good academic standing, an Academic Advisor will communicate with the student to determine the requirements (e.g., enrollment in additional courses) for regaining eligibility. Due to UNC’s residency requirement, courses must be taken at the Friday Center for Continuing Education or at UNC’s Summer School. UNC will not reimburse former student-athletes for courses taken at the Friday Center or in Summer School prior to readmission to the University. For students ultimately unable to gain readmission to UNC, Complete Carolina will help them find their path to success elsewhere, providing ongoing academic advising and career resource support. 

19.4.3 Complete Carolina Application

At the same time a student-athlete applies for readmission, he/she must also submit a Complete Carolina Application to the Compliance Office. The Compliance Office works with the sport program administrator in the student-athlete’s sport, as well as with the AAP, to assist the student with the Complete Carolina application. The application must include the following required signatures: 

  1. Former student-athlete
  2. Academic Advisor
  3. Head Coach
  4. Director of the ASPSA
  5. Compliance Office

19.4.4 Department of Athletics Determination of Funding

Complete Carolina provides financial support to all eligible former student-athletes who wish to return to UNC and complete their degrees. The amount funded is proportional to the student’s athletics aid during their initial enrollment as a student-athlete and will be applied toward tuition, fees, and books. At this time, walk-ons are not eligible for Complete Carolina. 

Funding for Complete Carolina is administered by the Department of Athletics, which determines when eligible students may receive aid, based on availability. 

Funding sources for Complete Carolina include the Educational Foundation (Rams Club), NCAA Student Assistance Fund, NCAA Degree Completion Award Program, additional TV contract revenues, Department of Athletics operating budget, and degree completion programs sponsored by professional sports teams. 

19.4.5 Notification

The Office of Admissions sends notification of readmission to the former student-athlete, the Compliance Office, and the AAP.and the ASPSA. Compliance provides the ASPSA with a list of Complete Carolina students at the start of each semester.  

The Compliance Office notifies the student-athlete of receipt and timing of aid for Complete Carolina. The Compliance Office works with the Office of Student Scholarships and Aid to determine each former student-athlete’s aid package for Complete Carolina. 

19.4.6 Academic Advising

During the application phase, the AAP provides an electronic advising worksheet, which details a student’s remaining requirements for graduation and is used by Compliance to determine athletics funding. Once approved/admitted to Complete Carolina, students should schedule an advising appointment with the AAP for additional course planning based on their remaining academic term(s) and plans to attend summer school and/or take online courses.

The AAP and the ASPSA work closely with the former student-athlete to create an individualized plan to facilitate completion of a degree. The student-athlete can choose the same degree program they pursued originally at UNC (if it is still available), or the student can choose a new course of study (if it is approved by the AAP and the academic department). 

The ASPSA provides academic support and tutoring to former student-athletes in the Complete Carolina program. Former student-athletes are assigned to an ASPSA Academic Counselor who works with their former team. 

As they are no longer eligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics, former student-athletes do not have to follow NCAA academic progress rules and have more flexibility in their course of study and electives. The Advisor’s role in the Complete Carolina program is focused primarily on graduation requirements and efficient degree completion. 

19.4.7 Ongoing Support Services

The AAP, ASPSA Academic Counselors and the Department of Athletics Office of Student-Athlete Development provide ongoing support and resources to Complete Carolina participants to ensure a student’s success on campus and after graduation. 

UNC graduates may not use the Office of Career Services after six months post-graduation. Career services and support from the Office of Student-Athlete Development is ongoing, regardless of how many years a student-athlete has been away from the University. 

19.4.8 Ensure Compliance

The Compliance Office tracks each former-student athlete in the Complete Carolina program and works closely with the AAP and the ASPSA to stay apprised of each student’s academic progress. 

The Compliance Office is responsible for monitoring compliance with NCAA rules and regulations as it relates to the Complete Carolina program, especially if the returning student is a professional athlete earning his/her degree. These compliance responsibilities include initial qualification; the athletics aid agreement; education and enforcement of compliance rules and policies; and serving as a liaison with agents.