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Grant program aids limited-resource schools

The first recipients of Accelerated Academic Success Program grants are using the funding to help student-athletes enhance academic performance

Coppin State has used the funding from the program to purchase laptop computers so its student-athletes can use them while on road trips.

A grant from the NCAA Accelerating Academic Success Program can go a long way.

Aimed at helping schools with limited resources achieve success in meeting the requirements of the NCAA Division I Academic Performance Program, the AASP grants are being used for everything from financial aid for summer classes to additional tutoring, mentoring programs to summer acclimation programs, all for student-athletes whose schools have benefited from the funding.

The goal: Help non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the bottom 10 percent of resources in Division I – as determined by per capita institutional expenditures, athletics department funding and Pell Grant aid – improve the graduation rates and academic success of student-athletes.

Grant recipients were selected by a committee made up of representatives from the NCAA membership and staff. The eligible universities could receive up to $300,000 per year for three years, subject to a yearly renewal following an assessment of how the schools were moving toward their goals. A total pool of $4.8 million was available for the program.

Of the 30 institutions that were eligible for the pilot program, 24 applied and six were awarded grants. Only four schools received the maximum grant funding available. One year into the three-year grant cycle, the recipient institutions are beginning to reap the rewards from their investment.

 “I’ve changed that mindset with our kids so they understand that we’re in a four-year graduation cycle and not a five- or six-year cycle,” said Coppin State Director of Athletics Derrick Ramsey, whose department did not have the funds in the past to cover summer school costs. “What we are doing is putting kids in position where they can perform academically.”

Here’s a look at how the grant recipients are putting the dollars to work for their student-athletes:

 

Cal State Northridge

Grant award: $900,000 over three years

Cal State Northridge student-athletes can receive tutoring and mentoring support in the Matador Achievement Center. Freshman student-athletes can also find help in adjusting to college.

Cal State Northridge’s initiatives included creation of a biannual review of its academic resources in order to better track student-athlete progress, purchase tablets and add academic support staff.

Additionally, Cal State Northridge – located in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley – will launch a summer school acclimation program to help at-risk freshman student-athletes get accustomed to the expectations of academic life on campus. 

After the student-athletes are identified, they will be placed in a six-week summer program where they will receive tutoring and mentoring support. In addition, the student-athletes selected for the program will receive life skills training in workshops.

Cal State Northridge also plans to track the participants’ academic success and, eventually, their graduation.

 

Coppin State

Grant award: $900,000 over three years

Among the initiatives that Coppin State, an urban campus in northwest Baltimore, is funding are faculty enrichment and peer mentoring programs to support student-athletes; a mobile computer-lab-away-from-home for offsite competitions; development of a campuswide Academic Progress Rate team that will strategically track progress toward the goals; and creation of a new academic services department with athletics.

Like many of the institutions that received funding, Coppin State has increased summer school and winter term opportunities for its student-athletes. Coppin State has also used the grant money to put 13 students through a winter term that the school offers. Another 24 student-athletes were also able to attend summer school with the funds.

Coppin State is also offering an ambitious fifth-year degree completion program for student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility.

 

Jackson State

Grant award: $900,000 over three years

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, Jackson State is using its grant funds to increase staff dedicated to assisting student-athletes; to use technology to help student-athletes access academic support services; and to provide internships for student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility and are still working toward their degrees, among other goals for the grant.

The School’s Pro Path Initiative is a new, formalized program that helps exceptionally talented student-athletes develop accelerated academic success plans and written career plans and goals. Student-athletes are also partnered with academic or career mentors through this program.

Jackson State is also developing its SMART Classroom Initiative, located in its Athletics Academic Enhancement Center. The classroom will allow student-athletes to participate in group study sessions and technology-based learning opportunities.

 

Tennessee State

Grant award: $900,000 over three years

Tennessee State, a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, uses its grant funding to identify incoming student-athletes who need help adjusting to the rigors of academic life and making sure they get the start they need.

The funds from the program can aid Tennessee State’s four-week academic boot camp program, which is part of the school’s Summer Success Institute. It is designed specifically for freshmen admitted with grade-point averages between 2.0 and 2.49. 

Participants in the program take part in reading, writing, mathematics, study skills and life skill initiatives. They also enroll in a three-credit hour critical thinking course that provides advice in time management, decision making and study skills that lead to academic success in college.

Among other initiatives, Tennessee State additionally uses its funds to bolster academic services staff and upgrade its academic services area, study hall and other facilities.

 

Morehead State

Grant award: $360,000 over one year

Morehead State, located in Kentucky, used its funding to add financial aid for summer classes or fifth-year classes for students who have exhausted financial availability; work-study positions that could include spots for students who could tutor; and a learning specialist for student-athletes with learning disabilities.

Additionally, Morehead State will use a portion of its funding to bolster the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee budget, a move intended to help improve its retention rate.

 

Norfolk State

Grant award: $330,000 over one year

Located in Virginia, Norfolk State planned its funding for two key initiatives: add an additional academic coordinator to help provide individualized service to student-athletes, and an enrollment for student-athletes in the university’s Spartans Preparing for Academic Rigor in College program, designed to help at-risk students transition into college.