UNC investigator to meet with governing board

Jun. 19, 2014 @ 01:39 PM

The full report’s not yet finished in a former federal prosecutor’s investigation into academic irregularities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

But Ken Wainstein is expected to give an update to the UNC Board of Governors on Friday about the investigation, without going into any factual findings.
Chairman Peter Hans broke that news to the board Thursday morning, saying that he and UNC system President Tom Ross think it’s important “to hear from [Wainstein] and hear where he is in the midst of the process.”
The university hired Wainstein to investigate allegations of academic fraud, including so-called “paper classes” that rarely met and only required students to submit term papers at the end of the semester.
Former UNC basketball standout Rashad McCants told ESPN recently that he kept his eligibility because advisers steered him to such courses and that Coach Roy Williams knew about it – assertions that Williams and other university officials denied.
In other board business on Thursday, Ross brought members up to speed on the status of the university system’s strategic plan.
He discussed efforts to raise the graduation and retention rate, outreach to military veterans and more streamlined methods of helping North Carolina’s community college students transfer to four-year universities.
The strategic plan, adopted last year, calls for 32 percent of the state’s adult residents to hold at least a bachelor’s degree to make them more competitive in the job market.
“It’s hard to predict,” Ross said, “but that’s what we believe.”
According to 2012 data, North Carolina stands at 28.9 percent.
“There’s still a long way to go,” he said. “A lot of work to be done.”
One aspect of the retention and graduation improvement plan is a “reverse transfer” approach. Any student who earns at least 16 credit hours at a community college and transfers to a UNC school could get an associate’s degree once they satisfy the cumulative requirements at the four-year university, Ross said.
So, if a student can’t finish their bachelor’s degree because of financial problems, at least they would have a credential. Or a student might be motivated by the intervening achievement to finish, Ross said.
“This is a win-win-win for everybody,” he said.
About 50,000 alumni from UNC schools during the past 20 years are expected to receive surveys this month, delving into their satisfaction with the educational experience, whether they would take the same major given the chance to do so again and what they’ve done with that education. Results of the survey, which cost $200,000 to conduct, should be released this fall.
Some board members felt the survey didn’t ask the right questions or should have been more open-ended. System officials described this survey as a first step, with the potential for more specific surveys in the future.
The UNC system so far made a total of about $38 million in voluntary cuts to free state money for reinvestment in educator and student retention.
“We have received the cuts (from the state legislature), but not yet the new appropriations,” Ross said.
Board member Fred Eshelman led the charge on the strategic plan. On Thursday, he voiced disappointment that legislators haven’t made good yet on their promise.
“I recognize you can’t get blood out of a turnip,” he said.
Still, he praised those working on measures within the plan for finding some money “to work around the edges.”
“Everybody seems to be on board, pushing forward within funding limits,” Eshelman said.

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