You are here

Committee on Academics seeks to enhance accountability

Members consider changes to APR calculation for postgraduate students

The NCAA Division I Committee on Academics could change the Academic Performance Program policy to enhance accountability for college athletes who are postgraduate students.

The committee recommended the change based on input from its Subcommittee on Data. The subcommittee, assigned by the Division I Council to consider issues surrounding students with bachelor’s degrees and remaining eligibility who transfer to a new school for a graduate degree, used the opportunity to examine all postgraduate competition policies from an academic perspective.

In reviewing data from students who compete after graduation, committee members learned that just slightly more than one-third of postgraduate students competing in men’s basketball and football complete a graduate degree.

The Council asked the committee to determine if the Academic Progress Rate could be used to hold schools more accountable for the academic progress of graduate transfer students. The Academic Performance Program awards one APR point for remaining eligible and one point for staying in school. However, current policy dictates that student-athletes in post-baccalaureate or graduate programs after earning an undergraduate degree always earn the retention point, regardless of whether they continue in their postgraduate program after their eligibility expires.

The committee members reviewed membership feedback on several different models and concluded postgraduate students who enroll in graduate programs should earn retention points by continuing until they complete their degree. Meanwhile, postgraduate student-athletes who enroll in undergraduate classes are not eligible to earn a retention point and can receive a point only for remaining academically eligible.

“This policy change could hold schools accountable for the academic progress of all students and make it more likely that students enrolled in graduate programs will receive the support and encouragement they need to finish their degree,” said Committee on Academics chair Roderick J. McDavis, president of Ohio University.

Ultimately, committee members decided retention was far more important for a graduate student who had enrolled in a program and was working toward a graduate degree than for a postgraduate student enrolled in additional undergraduate classes. Some members also expressed interest in asking the Council to investigate a requirement that schools who accept graduate transfer students be required to offer two years of athletics aid, even if the student had only one year of remaining athletics eligibility.  Research also shows that if students are offered two years of athletics aid after graduation, they are more likely to finish their degree.

Additionally, faculty members have long voiced concern that graduates who transfer for athletics reasons are filling a spot in an academic graduate program, potentially without the intention of earning that graduate degree. The policy adjustment addresses that concern by requiring those students to earn the retention point.

Data show the policy change would likely result in minimal change – less than one point – to the national APR distribution, even if no behaviors change. If students did not adjust their behaviors based on these new standards, the impact would be about two points in football and about three points in men’s basketball.

The committee will evaluate the recommendation after seeing what other potential changes to policy and legislation concerning postgraduate students emerge from other Division I committees. If approved by the Division I Council, the change could take effect with the  APR points earned during the 2017-18 academic year, collected in the fall of 2018.

Academic misconduct

The committee also reviewed feedback from the Division 1A Athletic Directors’ Association on a proposal in the current legislative cycle that would provide more clarity around academic misconduct, recommending two amendments intended to make the proposal more palatable to Division I member schools.

The proposal sets expectations for athletics staff and student-athletes and also clearly defines both academic misconduct and impermissible academic assistance.

Under the current proposal, a violation would occur when academic misconduct leads to the erroneous certification of a student, regardless of whether that student competes. The athletics directors group shared its belief that schools should not be penalized for erroneous certification of student-athletes found responsible for academic misconduct unless that student competes.

The Committee on Academics recommended that the Division I Council amend the proposal to reflect the athletics directors’ suggestion.

The athletics directors also believed the definition of a student staff member who could be culpable for athletics violations should be narrowed to those who provide academic services to student-athletes and are employed by their athletics department. Athletics directors raised the issue that some student-athletes receive tutoring from student employees outside athletics (through their academic department, for example). Those tutors, the athletics directors noted, don’t get the same education and training about cheating that athletics employees do.

The committee recognized that challenge and recommended the Council reduce the proposal’s definition of a school staff member to students employed by the athletics department who provide academic services to student-athletes, not those without specific athletics responsibilities.

The committee’s recommendations for amendments will go to the Division I Council and its Legislative Committee for consideration.

Enhanced criteria established

The committee also approved enhanced criteria for Academic Progress Rate improvement plans from historically black colleges and universities and limited-resource schools. The new criteria are part of the committee’s plan to continue to assist these schools in improving the academic success of their student-athletes.

The enhanced criteria are more specific and data-based. Improvement plans must have both short- and long-term goals with benchmarks along the way. The planning team at a school must include the school’s highest academic authority (such as the provost) and representation from any area that will be required to complete a task.

In addition to goals and benchmarks, the school must set forth a timeline for improvements, including time for checking in with NCAA staff before deadlines. Presidential involvement at the beginning and end of the plan’s implementation also will be required.

The committee also received an update on educational programming aimed at helping limited-resource schools and HBCUs with at least one team below the 930  APR benchmark. The programming includes an assessment tool schools can use to identify the specific academic needs of an underperforming team.

Initial eligibility

The committee also reviewed the upcoming change in initial eligibility standards, first adopted in 2011 and then relaxed in 2013. The committee will collect data in the coming months to monitor the impact of the shift on incoming students.