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DIII presidents discuss future of academic reporting

Council weighs options to produce division-wide, representative reports

By Gary Brown

The Division III Presidents Council is considering whether continuing a voluntary approach to reporting academic data could produce a sample representative enough to support Division III’s strategic-positioning platform and identity initiative without requiring reports from all schools.

Meeting last Wednesday and Thursday in Indianapolis, the presidents continued their review of a voluntary, two-year pilot that showed student-athlete academic success exceeding that of student-body peers. While presidents recognized the value of those data from a division-wide identity perspective, they also are aware of membership concerns about being required to submit them. 

Only about half the feedback from round tables at the 2012 Division III Issues Forum at the NCAA Convention in January indicated that the division-wide benefits of having the data outweigh the local burden of providing them, if the reporting process remains structured consistent with the pilot. While the Presidents Council believes that some of that “burden” is more perceived than realized – and that steps can be taken to reduce the burden experienced by pilot participants – the presidents want to be sensitive to the concerns.

The Council ultimately endorsed the principle of regular, representative reporting. In that vein, the Council agreed at least in the short term to see whether a third year of voluntary reporting, which already has been solicited this spring in conjunction with federally required graduation-rates reporting, continues to provide a representative sample.

Presidents Council chair Jim Schmotter of Western Connecticut State University said the challenge from the outset regarding academic reporting has been how best to collect empirical data that support the portion of the Division III philosophy statement assuring that academic performance of student-athletes is, at a minimum, consistent with that of the general student body. 

The NCAA has collected and reported graduation rates for all students (using the six-year federal methodology) and for all student-athletes receiving athletically related financial aid since 1991. While Division III students have been included in this process, a separate report on student-athletes in Division III has been absent because the division does not award athletics grants-in-aid. Thus, the pilot the Division III Presidents Council authorized served to validate the academic success that until now has only been assumed.

With that as a backdrop, the Presidents Council is deliberating whether to continue the reporting effort and, if so, how.

“The goal for the Presidents Council at this meeting was to understand the round table feedback and then begin to identify possible options for further consideration as a division,” Schmotter said. “In the interim, we’ve gone ahead and launched an additional round of voluntary reporting to see if that generates a representative sample. If it does, that might be a good alternative to establishing a mandatory system.”

At the issues forum in January, members admitted that the more populated the data set, the better, yet there was mixed interest in mandating an annual report.

“What we know is that some kind of regular, division-relevant, representative reporting is important,” Schmotter said. “We need to be able to report representative rates on a regular basis. If we can achieve that through some kind of voluntary program, that may be fine, but if we can’t, then we need to consider other options.”  

Preliminary results from this year’s voluntary sample should be ready by the Council’s August meeting.