To truly benefit from college, student-athletes have to succeed in more places than on the field. The NCAA provides opportunities to learn, compete and grow by setting standards that help prepare prospective student-athletes for college coursework and by measuring progress toward a degree once they’re on campus.

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Academic Standards

To be successful in college, students need to be prepared for college coursework. In Division I and Division II, the NCAA sets academic initial-eligibility standards that take into account GPA, standardized test scores, core courses taken in high school and the grades earned in those core courses. Division III schools hold student-athletes to the same overall standards for the institution in which they’re enrolling.

All student-athletes also must meet the unique acceptance requirements of the college or university they plan to attend (which may exceed NCAA standards).

Rewarding Team Success

Schools are held accountable for the academic progress of student-athletes. In Division I, only those teams that make the grade can participate in championships, and teams that under-perform academically can face penalties including practice and competition limitations, coaching suspensions and financial aid reductions.

Additionally, beginning with the 2019-2020 academic year, Division I schools' share of NCAA revenue will be tied to academic achievement. While the NCAA has always distributed funds to assist schools whose students needed help in the classroom, this marks the first time the amount of money schools receive from the NCAA will be determined by their students’ academic achievement.

Continuing Academic Success

Student-athletes commit to academic achievement and the pursuit of a degree, and they are required to meet yearly standards to be able to compete. College athletes' success is tracked using three measures: grades, minimum credit hours per year and progress toward earning a degree. Schools in all divisions (Division I, Division II, Division III) must confirm the academic eligibility of student-athletes, and those who are declared ineligible must go through the student-athlete reinstatement process to compete again. 

Tracking Graduation Rates

The ultimate goal of the college experience is graduation, and college athletes are graduating at rates that are higher than ever.

The NCAA closely tracks student-athlete graduation rates using several measures. In Division I, the Graduation Success Rate tracks the number of first-year, full-time students who entered college with financial aid and graduated from that school within six years, including anyone who transferred into that school. This measurement is unique in that it does not penalize a school when a student-athlete transfers to another school if the student was in good academic standing at the time of the transfer.

Division II’s Academic Success Rate is similar to the Division I GSR, except it measures the academic success of all student-athletes, not just those who receive financial aid.

While Division III does not have an NCAA-mandated measurement for academic success, schools are encouraged to report data on a voluntary basis using the Division III Academic Success Rate measurement.


Focusing on Academic Integrity

In April 2016, the Division I Council adopted a proposal that establishes the appropriate balance between a school’s role in deciding academic integrity issues on campus and the NCAA’s role in reinforcing and upholding the Association’s core academic principles. The new rules establish clear and consistent guidelines for academic integrity issues and govern when such issues could be considered an NCAA violation.

This is the first legislative change to the division’s approach to academic integrity issues since 1983.