CHAPEL HILL – UNC has responded to the CNN article that questioned the literacy levels of student athletes at the University with data of its own disputing those claims.

Ninety-seven percent of UNC student-athletes met the CNN reading skills threshold—that’s according to an eight-year admissions analysis produced by the University.

The CNN article stated that a majority of Carolina’s student athletes playing revenue-generating sports read at a level no higher than eighth grade.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Steve Farmer, UNC’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions, following the release of the data.

When asked if the University’s data was incompatible with CNN’s findings, Farmer said:

“I think these numbers are widely incompatible with the claim. I don’t know how that claim was arrived at, but I think the data we have about student admissions don’t support the claim,” he said.

**Hear the Full Interview**


Mary Willingham, who is currently employed at UNC as a clinical instructor and academic advisor, previously worked as an athletic tutor. She spoke to CNN based on her encounters with Carolina athletes and is the source of the claims about the University.

Willingham researched the reading levels of 183 UNC football or basketball players from 2004 to 2012. She said that she found that 60 percent read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. 

CNN also cites its own research which revealed that between seven and 18 percent of revenue sports athletes read at an elementary school level. CNN said that the those findings were based on the SAT and ACT entrance exam scores of athletes who play football and basketball.

According to the “academic experts” CNN consulted, the threshold for being college-literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Released Thursday, Carolina’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions used CNN’s definition to analyze UNC’s own SAT and ACT data for special-talent student-athletes enrolled as first-year students through policies and procedures established by the UNC Board of Trustees, faculty and the admissions office.

UNC’s analysis found that between 2004 and 2012, the same time period examined by CNN, Carolina enrolled 1,377 first-year student-athletes through the special-talent policies and procedures.

More than 97 percent of those students met the CNN threshold. Thirty-nine students, fewer than 3 percent, did not.

Twenty-three of the 39 students, or 87 percent, who did not meet the CNN threshold either graduated from the University, remain enrolled and in good academic standing, or left with academically eligible to return.

UNC’s data also stated that of the student-athletes who enrolled between 2004 and 2012 under the special-talent policies, 341 were recruited for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

More than 90 percent, or 307, of these students met the CNN threshold, according to UNC.

Thirty-four students recruited for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball did not meet the threshold. Of that group, 20 students either have graduated from the University or remain enrolled and in good academic standing.

The data was released hours after UNC Chancellor Carol Folt issued a response to the CNN article.

Folt said she was investigating the claims, though she questioned their validity, saying that the data presented in the media did “not match up with those data gathered by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.”

She added, “I am asking for your patience and understanding today. I still have many questions, and I am seeking to understand the complete picture of what additional work we need to do in this area.”