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Academic Progress Rate Q&A

Q&A explaining the basics of the APR

This year marks the 10th year of APR requirements for NCAA member schools. Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, explains what the requirements are, why APR was put into place ten years ago and how it has changed the landscape in college sports.

What was the rationale behind the initial implementation of APR in 2003?

APR was part of a broader academic reform package. It was the first time the membership had developed a group of measures aimed at improving academic success. So we had increased standards for the students, better measurements for the academic success and consequences for poor performance based on the APR. It was the power behind the package, all the items working together, for the first time achieving the kind of results that we’re seeing.

Why are only scholarship student-athletes included in the APR?

The membership made the decision to only include scholarship student-athletes in the metric in part to create consistency across the measurements of all schools. There was also an initial concern about the academic success of scholarship student-athletes. The APR came into place to address concerns regarding how student-athletes in certain sports were graduating. Those tended to be the scholarship student-athletes. It’s not that they’re not concerned about walk-ons and their academic success, it’s just that they traditionally have not been a problem.

What about the Ivy League?

For schools that don’t offer athletics scholarships, we use a standard based on their recruited status and that allows those institutions to be compared with other schools through recruited student-athletes.

How is APR calculated?

It’s a term-by-term calculation of the eligibility and retention of all student-athletes. A score of a thousand means every student-athlete on that team stayed eligible and returned to school. You begin losing points for students who are not eligible and/or are not retained.

Why did the NCAA raise the APR requirement to 930?

Our membership wanted to anchor postseason eligibility against a rate that predicted a 50 percent graduation rate. They felt that was a minimum standard that a team must achieve in order to have access to postseason competition and not be subject to penalties.

What practically does it mean for a team to earn a 930 APR?

That means a team is at a minimum academic threshold where they can be eligible for the postseason.

What effect have the increased standards had on member teams and schools?

The increased standards for young people coming out of high school have them better prepared. We think the increased standards while they are in college, progress-toward degree standards, are helping more get degrees.

The increased APR standards have done a couple of things. They have caused schools to evaluate or re-evaluate their recruiting practices and making sure they are bringing in students who can be successful academically. They have caused them to evaluate their level of academic support for students who might need additional help being successful. The increased standard caused schools to consider their retention strategies to do all they can to retain student-athletes — even those who are being challenged academically. Ultimately, it’s just setting higher expectations and understanding among the teams that they must do well academically in order to achieve some of the benefits like postseason competition.

What are the penalties for not achieving a 930?

There’s a range of penalties, including constest reductions and practice limitations. This is also the benchmark for teams to have access to postseason competition. Other penalties can be imposed by the Division I Committee on Academic Performance, tailored to a school’s specific situation.

Why are teams banned from the postseason for poor academic performance?

The membership decided a minimum standard of academic performance needed to be met in order for a team to have access to postseason competition and championships. This is not a penalty – it is a requirement for postseason participation as much as a winning record. The membership believes access to championships is a privilege that is earned based not on just your on-field performance but also your classroom performance.

Why is there a lag in reporting APR scores?

It’s important that the NCAA be fair. In order to be fair, you have to allow schools ample opportunity to make their case when they are seeking adjustments for their APR based on mitigation. They then need to have the opportunity to appeal decisions and have a fair process to be adjudicated by their peers, a membership committee.

We do all that in the spirit of fairness because we know individual student-athletes and teams are impacted by these decisions. The committee reaffirms that the principle of fairness is most important and in some instances that will require a delay in the actual reporting of the final scores. To be fair to all schools, because some take longer through the process, there has been a bit of a lag time in reporting out the scores and the penalties that follow them.

What can teams or schools do to help meet the minimum requirements for APR?

They can ensure they are recruiting and admitting students who can be successful on campus. They can provide a level of academic support that meets the needs of the student-athletes. They can develop meaningful improvement plans for individuals and their teams when they need help. They can emphasize a team culture that makes academics a priority to reach team success.

How does APR impact GSR?

APR and GSR certainly have a relationship, and APR does impact the graduation rates, but it’s important to note that they do measure different things. If you are retaining all of your student-athletes and they are all eligible, you will see an improvement in graduation rates. APR is a good prediction of eventual graduation rate, with a high statistical correlation.

This is the tenth year for APR – what changes have we seen over the past decade?

Broadly stated, we’ve seen that APR has worked its way into the athletics culture in a way that the federal graduation rates never did. It’s viewed now as a part of the athletics landscape. People know about the APR and its importance to the students, the teams and the schools.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen the APR become a part of the Division I culture. It’s had many positive effects, along with the other reform changes we talked about. Those resulted in increased graduation rates for our student-athletes, higher performance in some of the under-performing sports that we saw, from a demographic perspective, an increase in the academic performance of our African-American student-athletes. It has resulted in policy changes in certain sports like baseball, which resulted in improved graduation rates for that sport. It’s resulted in the development of improvement plans for schools that did not previously have a plan to identify and address their specific problems. It’s caused schools to re-evaluate their recruiting strategies, bringing in students who can be successful and those they can support academically.