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Limited-resource institutions allowed flexible transition to higher APR standards

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The Division I Board of Directors today adopted a more flexible transition to higher Academic Progress Rate standards for limited-resource institutions. The modified timeline reflects the fact that many such institutions have a clearly stated mission to provide access to educational opportunities to a broader group of students, including those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college. 

After the enhanced APR standards were adopted by the Board last fall, the Committee on Academic Performance recommended the creation of a limited-resource advisory group to evaluate and provide input on issues specific to limited-resource and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The resulting group’s recommendations to CAP included allowing limited-resource institutions more time to make meaningful changes for teams that need additional help in the classroom, while still holding institutions accountable for progressing toward a 930 APR (which predicts about a 50 percent graduation rate).

Walter Harrison, the chair of the DI Committee on Academic Performance, discusses the transition to higher academic standards for limited resource institutions.

NCAA President Mark Emmert supported the recommendations.

“We have an obligation to work with HBCUs and limited-resource institutions to make sure their student-athletes have every opportunity to be successful academically,” Emmert said. “It’s important to look at a variety of options and be as deliberative as we can to ensure our actions facilitate success, not limit it.”

The goal of the Academic Performance Program is not to punish teams that don’t meet the benchmarks but to improve the academic outcomes for underperforming teams.  The flexible transition period for limited-resource institutions is consistent with this goal and provides opportunities for institutions with limited resources and a different mission. 

In October, the presidents on the Board adopted higher APR standards for all teams in Division I. The new standards are designed to ensure that no team with an APR that predicts to less than 50 percent graduation rate participates in NCAA championships. The new standards will be phased in over a four-year transition period.

For most schools, the transition looks like this:

2012-13 and 2013-14 postseasons Teams must earn either a 900 four-year APR or a 930 average over the most recent two years.
2014-15 postseason Teams must earn either a 930 four-year APR or a 940 average over the most recent two years.
2015-16 postseason and beyond Teams must earn a 930 four-year APR.


For limited-resource institutions, the transition will now look like this:

2012-13 and 2013-14 postseasons Teams must earn a 900 four-year APR or a 930 average over the most recent two years.
2014-15 postseason Teams must earn a 910 four-year APR or a 940 average over the most recent two years.
2015-16 postseason Teams must earn a 920 four-year APR.
2016-17 postseason Teams must earn a 930 four-year APR.


The benchmarks also will apply to the penalties within the Academic Performance Program, including practice and competition reductions.

From 2012-13 to 2015-16, schools defined as limited-resource for this purpose also can benefit from the use of the improvement trending test that provides relief from ineligibility for the postseason and APP penalties based on making significant progress toward the benchmark. The test requires a team to demonstrate meaningful improvement in at least one of five different ways. It also requires that the most recently available single-year meets the minimum standard for a team to receive relief.

To be eligible for the alternate transition period and improvement filter, teams must fall in the bottom 15 percent of all Division I member institutions for resources. The formula for determining resource level includes per capita expenditures on athletics, per capita educational expenditures for the student body and average Pell Grant funds among all students.

No teams at Football Bowl Subdivision institutions would be eligible for either the alternate transition period or the improvement filter. The committee noted that institutions that have made the substantial financial commitment to be a member of the FBS – including higher sport sponsorship numbers and increased athletics scholarship requirements – should be in a position to adequately fund the academic support of their student-athletes.

All limited-resource schools that wish to use the longer transition timeline or the improvement filter must have in place a meaningful APR improvement plan. The plan will be evaluated for:

  • The implementation of previous APR improvement plans, if required.
  • The identification of the issues on that campus most critical to academic success, supported by data.
  • The development of meaningful initiatives that address those issues.
  • The inclusion of representatives from across campus in developing and evaluating the plan.
  • Chancellor/president approval.
  • The team’s projected single-year APR targets included in the plan elevate the team out of the penalty structure by the end of the transition period.

Additionally, CAP recommended the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Limited-Resource Institutions Advisory Group to engage other presidents in the HBCU community regarding academic-performance matters. As part of the movement toward further presidential engagement, the CAP also recommended the addition of an HBCU president as an ad hoc member.

CAP also asked that NCAA staff visit limited-resource institutions to educate personnel inside and outside athletics on the Academic Performance Program.

The CAP further will encourage the HBCU and limited-resource community to work with the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) to create a peer review program of academic support efforts.

The alternate transition timeline and other recommendations are effective for the 2012-13 academic year.