NCAA Board Approves Tougher Academic Standards, Scholarship Funds for Student-Athlete Spending - Higher Education
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NCAA Board Approves Tougher Academic Standards, Scholarship Funds for Student-Athlete Spending

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by María Eugenia Miranda

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I board announced sweeping changes to athlete eligibility requirements and scholarship aid during a news conference call on Thursday. 

The Division I Board of Directors approved a slate of rules that gives conferences the option of adding more money to scholarships, schools the opportunity to award scholarships for multiple years, and imposes tougher academic standards on recruits.  

“I believe that yesterday and today the board passed the three most significant initiatives in NCAA history that will ensure student academic success,” said Dr. Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chair of the NCAA Division I Committee on Academic Performance.

Incoming college freshmen will now have to have a 2.3 GPA in core high school courses, up from a 2.0, and will have to meet more rigorous standardized test score requirements, as the board bumped up the sliding scale.  Student-athletes who fall in the 2.0 to 2.3 GPA range will be eligible to practice with the team and receive scholarship aid, but they will not be able to travel.

“We are calling this an academic red-shirt year, so that you will have your first year in college to concentrate on your studies and prepare yourself for success in college,” said Harrison.

In addition, freshman student-athletes will have to have taken 10 of their core high school courses their first seven semesters of high school. Seven of those 10 courses will have to be in math, English or science.

Student-athletes transferring from two-year schools will also face tougher academic standards. They will be required to have a 2.5 GPA at their community college, and only two of those credits will be allowed to be in physical education.

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All Division I schools will be required to have a 930 Academic Progress Rate to participate in post-season play. Each student-athlete earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible to play. Then, a team’s total points are divided by possible points and multiplied by 1,000 to determine the team’s APR.

“A 930 in the APR is a predictor of a 50 percent graduation rate,” said Harrison.

Seven of the teams in last year’s men’s post-season basketball tournament and eight of the schools in last year’s bowl games would not have been eligible to play under the revised guidelines, according to NCAA officials.

While the Division I board will be expecting more from students and programs, it also has changed guidelines to help support their academic pursuits. Conferences will now have to provide scholarships for a year minimum. “They passed language that will allow scholarships to be multiple years or at least single year,” said NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Individual students may be able to receive up to $2,000 additional in scholarship funding in what the NCAA has deemed full cost-of-attendance funds. The measure amounts to allowing conferences to provide as much as $2,000 in spending money, according to The Associated Press. Emmert insists the measure does not establish pay-for-play, but merely the reintroduction of a stipend that existed for college athletes until 1972. He also compared it to the stipends received by other students who receive non-athletic scholarships, The Associated Press reported.

A recent USA Today analysis found that the median cost at public universities exceeds student-athlete scholarship coverage by $4,000. Students on partial scholarships would receive a prorated amount.

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“It was, in short, one of the most aggressive and fullest agendas the Division I board has ever faced,” said Emmert. “The impact is going to be very, very important and very, very positive for all of our schools and all of our student athletes.”

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