UNC-Chapel Hill billed $3M for work detailing long-running academic scandal with fake classes

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — North Carolina's flagship public university is facing a $3.1 million bill for the investigation by outside attorneys that detailed an academic fraud scheme that used fake grades to keep some athletes eligible for nearly two decades, the school said Friday.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received an invoice this week for fees and expenses the Washington, D.C., law firm of former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein incurred during his eight-month investigation.

His report said that fake classes allowed 3,100 students — almost half of them athletes — to earn artificially high grades from 1993 to 2011. While the sham courses were in one academic department, multiple people around campus knew of them or suspected something funny but said nothing, the report said.

None of the money for the Wainstein report is coming from taxpayers or tuition, according to a statement posted on a campus website. The funds will come instead from the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation Inc., the nonprofit that receives gifts on behalf of the university, the school said. The bill is expected to be paid by the end of this month, spokeswoman Karen Moon said in an email.

The school also was billed at least $782,000 by the Edelman public relations firm after UNC-CH hired it to help with messaging connected to the scandal and other communications efforts, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported last month.

The campus also released a letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges showing the agency that accredits the school wants to take a deeper look into the university's practices after the Wainstein report's findings.

The new demand for documents and explanations by Jan. 7 comes after the organization twice before dug into the evolving academic scandal since it surfaced in 2011. The problems centered on the academic department formerly named African and Afro-American Studies and were an offshoot of an NCAA investigation into the school's football program that began the previous year.

The accrediting commission's letter notes its standards expect "an institution to operate with integrity in all matters." The Wainstein report shows "that UNC-Chapel Hill was not diligent in providing information to the committee" during an earlier review in April 2013, the letter said, and "the institution may have had information that was not shared."


Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio.

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