North Carolina reportedly reaches settlement with fraud whistle-blower

North Carolina reportedly has reached a settlement with whistle-blower who sparked academic fraud case

The University of North Carolina has agreed to pay a settlement to a former employee who helped spark the NCAA's academic fraud investigation of the university's athletic program.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, North Carolina has agreed to pay former learning specialist Mary Willingham $335,000 to settle her claim that she was punished for being a whistle-blower in the school's academic fraud case. A federal court document obtained by the newspaper showed the case has been settled and is now closed.

“We believe the settlement is in the best interest of the university and allows us to move forward and fully focus on other important issues,” UNC spokesman Rick White said in a statement obtained by the paper.

Willingham said she will see about $180,000 of the settlement after legal fees are taken into consideration. She initially was trying to get her job back, but that was not part of the settlement.

Willingham resigned from North Carolina in April 2014 after she raised concerns about reading levels among student-athletes.

She claimed research showed that a majority of 180 Tar Heel athletes tested for learning disabilities could not read at a high school level. She also claimed that there was a long history of student-athletes taking "paper classes" that did not meet. The athletes were instructed simply to write papers that were then given high grades regardless of their quality.

North Carolina officials have disputed Willingham's findings.

The NCAA is investigating the allegations of academic misconduct at North Carolina, which reportedly ran from 1993-2011.

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