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NCAA grants fill resource gap

The Supplemental Support Fund is now combined with the Accelerating Academic Success Program, which has so far allocated more than $4.3 million to schools with limited resources

In order to offer greater funding opportunities for schools with limited resources, the NCAA Executive Committee voted this spring to combine the existing Supplemental Support Fund with the Accelerating Academic Success Program grants. The new combined program will retain the AASP name and will provide both single-year initiative grants up to $100,000 and multi-year comprehensive grants up to $900,000 over three years.

Both the AASP and Supplemental Support Fund grants are aimed at improving student-athlete success while helping schools meet the academic requirements of Division I membership. Although no new dollars were added, combining the two programs will allow for greater funding flexibility, more strategic oversight and greater potential impact for selected institutions. 

Funding levels for the 2014-15 single-year grants will remain between $2,000 and $40,000, but the maximum grant will increase in 2015-16 to $100,000. Multi-year grants will remain consistent with the 2012 AASP pilot program, providing schools up to $900,000 over three years.

After the three years ending December 2015, the initial awards will have provided more than $4.3 million in funding to six chosen schools: California State University, Northridge ($900,000), Coppin State University ($900,000), Jackson State University ($900,000), Tennessee State University ($900,000), Morehead State University ($360,000) and Norfolk State University ($330,000). To qualify a school must be in the Division I non-Football Bowl Subdivision and be in the bottom 10 percent of resources as determined by per capita school expenditures, athletics department funding and Pell grants.

“Our limited-resource institutions are often doing more with less,” said Wendy Walters, director of membership and student-athlete affairs. “These funds give schools the opportunity to think creatively and strategically about how best to support the academic success of student-athletes on their campuses.”

Past multi-year grants funded facility, personnel, programming and technological improvements. Cal State Northridge, for example, used its AASP funding to open the Matador Achievement Center, which increased study space and student-athlete access to mentors and tutors.

As with many of the grant recipients, Coppin State used its AASP grant dollars to support a holistic approach to academics. The school is funding summer and winter-break classes and providing opportunities for faculty mentors to travel with teams on road trips. Faculty also participate in enrichment programs that help them understand the experience of their student-athletes and the value of intercollegiate athletics on campus. The faculty mentors also discuss life skills and provide academic support to the student-athletes on Coppin State’s teams.

While the multi-year grants allow schools to focus on long-term efforts, the single-year grants give campuses the ability to fund an immediate need.

“This new approach will provide a larger injection of funds giving institutions the opportunity to target achievable improvements over the course of an academic year, making an immediate difference in the lives of their student-athletes,” Walters said.

Beginning in 2015-16 single-year grant recipients will be required to provide a 20 percent match of grant dollars. Participants in the multi-year grant program are required to match grant dollars each year of the program with either direct funds or in-kind contributions. The school must commit a 25 percent match in the first year, 50 percent in the second and 75 percent in the third. 

“As the academic expectations for Division I student-athletes continue to increase, this new program supports a commitment to academic success for those institutions that have demonstrated need and have a plan for using these funds to contribute to their student-athletes’ successes,” Walters said. “Higher academic standards are achievable and realistic, provided institutions take a proactive approach.”

The grants will be awarded on a competitive basis with specific consideration given to factors such as presidential engagement, the school’s academic progress rate and level of involvement from staff, including coaches.