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Diploma databases let users compare student-athlete degrees

This spring, the NCAA launched new tools to compare undergraduate degrees earned by college athletes with those conferred on the general student body.

The Division I Diploma Dashboard and Division II Diploma Dashboard also allow users to dissect data to compare contingents of student-athletes based on year of graduation, gender, race and, in some cases, sport.

Division III data are not available because those schools are not required to report academic data to the NCAA.

The Diploma Dashboards will be updated each time a new academic year’s information on degrees awarded is available from both NCAA and U.S. Department of Education sources.

“The transparency made possible with access to these data engines better equips Association members to make the best decisions for the academic success of our student-athletes,” says Paul Leidig, chair of the Division II Academic Requirements Committee and a Grand Valley State professor.

The public Diploma Dashboards do not allow users to break down information by school, but colleges and universities soon will be able to look at their individual data through the NCAA Institutional Performance Program portal.

Carolyn Callahan, an education professor at Virginia who serves on the Division I Committee on Academics, says Virginia once used the data to uncover that no student-athlete could choose one particular major because a required course perennially conflicted with a common athletic practice time. With that information, the athletics department could open a conversation with the academic department that offered the major.

NCAA research advises users to keep in mind that the demographics of the student-athlete population are different from those of the general student body. For example, the student-athlete population has a higher proportion of men and people of color than the general student body. As a result, when evaluating the data, NCAA research recommends disaggregating data by gender and race: for example, comparing black men in the general student body to black male student-athletes.

A few key findings from the report

Female student-athletes are more likely to major in stem fields: In both Divisions I and II, female student-athletes are more likely to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering or math than women in the general student body. The difference is more pronounced in Division II, where 17 percent of female student-athletes and 11 percent of women in the general student body are pursuing stem degrees.

Rising academic standards have had little impact on student-athlete degree choices: Increased academic standards for student-athletes appear to have had little or no impact on the areas of study they choose to pursue. Over the past 10 years, their degrees have followed trends in the general student body.

Perhaps not surprisingly, student-athletes like sports: College athletes in both Division I and Division II are more than twice as likely to graduate with a degree related to athletics or fitness.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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