Athletics competition at more than 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada is governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which maintains three divisions to offer “level playing fields” for the smallest liberal arts colleges and the most committed and funded major-university athletics programs.
Some 340 schools in Division I are covered regularly by the media. But the largest division in terms of number of schools and number of participants is Division III, which comprises more than 170,000 student-athletes at 444 mostly smaller institutions.
Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes. The division minimizes the conflicts between athletics and academics and keeps student-athletes on a path to graduation through shorter practice and playing seasons, the number of contests, no redshirting and regional competition that reduces time away from academic studies. Student-athletes are integrated on campus and treated like all other members of the general student-body, keeping them focused on being a student first.
Division III is engaged in division-wide discussions about implementing an Academic Success Rate in the near future. The NCAA has collected and reported graduation rates since 1991 for all students (using the six-year federal methodology) and for all student-athletes receiving athletically related financial aid.
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. While many Division III institutions and conferences have tracked the academic success of their student-athletes, they have used a variety of criteria (for example, graduation, grade-point average, class rank).
However, Division III recently completed a two-year pilot academic-reporting program that produced data from a representative sample showing that student-athletes graduate at higher rates than those of their student-body peers. Division III members will decide soon whether a division-wide academic reporting structure that produces an annual Academic Success Rate is appropriate.
Follow Your Passions and Discover Your Potential
The college experience is a time of learning and growth — a chance to follow passions and develop potential. For student-athletes in Division III, all of this happens most importantly in the classroom and through earning an academic degree. The Division III experience provides for passionate participation in a competitive athletic environment, in which student-athletes push themselves to excellence and build upon their academic success with new challenges and life skills. And student-athletes are encouraged to pursue their full passions and find their potential through a comprehensive educational experience.
Division III student-athletes are encouraged to pursue their interests and passions beyond the classroom and field of play…to discover themselves.
Division III institutions provide an environment that encourages student-athletes to develop into well-rounded adults. Small class sizes, the ability to participate in more than one sport, and an emphasis on participating activities outside of the classroom are all hallmarks of the Division III experience.
Division III institutions expect student-athletes to dedicate themselves to achieving their potential. Student-athletes must manage their busy schedules, keep up with class work and face the same challenges as the rest of the student-body.