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DI student-athletes continue classroom success

Academic Progress Rate rises overall; most sports improve

Division I student-athletes improved academically for the 12th consecutive year, earning another all-time high four-year Academic Progress Rate.

The 2015-16 overall four-year rate is 981, up two points from the four-year rate announced last year. Three-point improvements in baseball and football four-year rates contributed to that increase. Baseball teams earned a 973 four-year rate (up from 970), and football teams earned a 962 (up from 959). In addition, men’s basketball teams earned a 966 four-year rate (up from 964), and women’s basketball teams earned a 980 (up from 978).

Also notable is the steady increase in scores earned by teams at limited-resource schools and historically black colleges and universities. The single-year Academic Progress Rate for limited-resource schools has increased from 939 to 968 since 2010, while HBCUs saw an increase from 913 to 956 during that time. Teams from schools not considered limited-resource institutions increased the single-year rate by only five points (979 to 984) over that same time.

NCAA President Mark Emmert applauded Division I student-athletes for their continued academic achievement and dedication to earning a degree.

“I am so pleased that the Academic Progress Rates continue to rise, but I am more excited about what those numbers mean: Thousands of college athletes continue to make real progress toward earning their degrees,” Emmert said. “A college degree, combined with the skills they learn while participating in sports, will provide countless opportunities for them later in life.”

Every Division I sports team across the nation calculates its Academic Progress Rate each academic year, like a report card. Scholarship student-athletes each semester earn one point for remaining eligible and one point for staying in school or graduating. At schools that don’t offer scholarships, recruited student-athletes are tracked.

In the 13 years of the Academic Performance Program, more than 15,000 former college athletes have earned APR points for their former teams by going back to school and earning their degrees. More than 8,000 competed in baseball, men’s basketball, football and women’s basketball — the highest-profile sports in Division I. Each of those graduates earned APR points for their former team, but often don’t count toward the Graduation Success Rate or federal graduation rate because those rates only track students for six years after enrollment.

"An important aspect of the Academic Performance Program is how it encourages schools to welcome former students back to campus so that they can complete their degrees," said Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, who serves as chair of the Division I Committee on Academics. "Though these students are not always included in graduation rates, they obtain lifelong benefits from receiving a degree and the program's emphasis on their well being is exceptional."

Rates are an average of each school’s performance for the past four years. National aggregates are based on all teams with usable data at the time of analysis. APRs for each team, lists of teams receiving public recognition and those receiving sanctions are available online through the NCAA’s searchable database. The national analysis is based on member-provided data from April 5.

Postseason access loss and penalties

To compete in the 2017-18 postseason, teams must achieve a 930 four-year APR. NCAA member representatives chose the 930 standard because that score predicts a 50 percent graduation rate for the team. Additionally, teams must earn at least a 930 APR to avoid penalties.

Teams scoring below 930 can face consequences intended to direct additional focus on academics. Those penalties can include practice restrictions and playing-season reductions. The intention is to fill time that would have been spent on athletics with academic activities.

“When the NCAA created the Academic Performance Program, the goal was to motivate everyone in college sports to encourage the academic achievements of student-athletes, rather than just punish teams that don’t meet the benchmark,” Emmert said. “We will continue to support member schools and student-athletes as they work toward that goal, and we remain committed to academic excellence for all our member schools.”

This is the second year that the Division I Committee on Academics has supported the efforts of limited-resource and HBCU universities by allowing teams that meet specific criteria to avoid penalties in some circumstances.

For example, HBCU and limited-resource teams have historically been able to avoid penalties by meeting a separate standard that includes improvement and a graduation rate that exceeds that of the student body at the school. While those filters remain available, teams are not allowed to use them every year. Committee members decided to limit the use of filters to spur schools to continue to work toward academic achievement. The plan also includes a more rigorous review of Academic Progress Rate improvement plans.

Additionally, the national office provides educational initiatives to help limited-resource schools offer additional academic support to student-athletes. The new elements augment the Accelerating Academic Success Program, which has allocated more than $15 million to assist those schools in developing and supporting academic programs that help student-athletes earn their degrees.