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Division II academic philosophy

Division II’s academic philosophy calls for a comprehensive program of learning and development in a personal setting. The size of many Division II campuses (about 87 percent of Division II schools have enrollments of fewer than 8,000 students) fosters that personal setting.

As with all NCAA colleges and universities, student-athletes at Division II institutions are required to meet certain academic standards in order to practice and compete in athletics. These benchmarks are called “initial-eligibility standards” for incoming freshmen and transfer students, and “progress-toward-degree standards” for other student-athletes.

These criteria ensure that student-athletes are prepared for the rigors of college coursework and are on a path to graduate throughout their college experience. (These standards are outlined more specifically at the NCAA Eligibility Center website, where all prospective student-athletes seeking athletics-based aid at Divisions I or II institutions must register.)

At the 2014 NCAA Convention, Division II adopted a “Path to Graduation” legislative package that changes the division’s initial-eligibility and progress-toward-degree requirements for the first time in 31 years. The changes raise the initial-eligibility GPA requirement for student-athletes enrolling on or after August 1, 2018, to a minimum of 2.2 for qualifiers (up from the current 2.0) and establishes for the first time two sliding scales for full and partial qualifiers that allows lower standardized test scores to be offset by higher high school core course GPAs.

Data on student-athlete graduation rates support Division II’s commitment to student-athlete academic success. All NCAA colleges and universities are required by federal law (the Student Right-to-Know Act adopted in 1990) to report student graduation rates, and those institutions offering athletics aid are required to report for their student-athletes as well.

Division II established an “Academic Success Rate” in 2006, which, unlike the federal graduation rate, measures graduation outcomes for student-athletes who are not receiving athletically related financial aid. In addition, the Division II rate includes transfer student-athletes and midyear enrollees in the cohort, whereas the federal graduation rate does not. With those additional criteria, the Division
II cohort includes nearly twice as many student-athletes as the federal study.

The most recent Academic Success Rate for the most recent incoming class reveals that 71 percent of Division II student-athletes graduate within six years of initial enrollment.

There’s no comparable rate for the student body, but even using the federal methodology, Division II student-athletes graduate at rates higher (about nine percentage points) than their student-body peers. That’s an important statistic for many Division II schools whose missions include accommodating first-generation college students.

Division II graduation rates (2004-07 cohorts)
  Student body Student-athletes
  Federal rate Federal rate ASR
Division II overall 48% 55% 71%
Division II men 44% 48% 64%
Division II women 51% 64% 84%

Division II also has a “degree-completion” program for student-athletes who have exhausted their athletics eligibility and are short of earning their diplomas. To date, nearly $4 million has been allocated to about 1,000 deserving student-athletes. Of those student-athletes who have received the award since its inception, 94 percent have earned their undergraduate degree using this program.