By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The Division I Board of Directors on Thursday maintained its support for higher grades and a core course progression for prospective student athletes, but adopted legislation that would keep for the foreseeable future the test score/grade-point average sliding scale at the current level for student-athlete access to financial aid, practice and competition in the first year.
In October 2011, the presidents on the Board decided that to compete in the first year of enrollment, prospects must 1) meet a higher sliding scale, 2) achieve an increased grade-point average requirement of 2.3 (from 2.0) and 3) complete a core-course progression that requires prospects to finish and “lock in” 10 of the 16 required core courses before the beginning of their senior year.
The Board has determined that requiring prospects to meet a more stringent sliding scale starting in 2016 would have yielded a number of unintended consequences. Those consequences led the Board to its decision to retain the current sliding scale standard.
The rationale for Thursday’s action included the following considerations:
Committee on Academic Performance chair Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford, said the enormity of the impact on minorities, the numerous other academic changes set to take place soon and the positive trends in Academic Progress Rates all were factors in his support of the sliding-scale re-examination.
“APRs are improving, and I believe they will continue to improve,” Harrison said. “I’m concerned about minority students who would be affected by the dramatic change to the sliding scale. The new 930 APR benchmark required for postseason competition is impacting coaches’ recruiting decisions. These changes and the action the Board took today to strengthen the high school core GPA calculation will make the positive effects even more dramatic.”
The Board committed to examining the impact of the GPA floor and core-course progression requirements soon after the changes are implemented in 2016. After that review, the presidents will determine whether the changes have had the intended impact or if a sliding scale increase is warranted.
At the recommendation of the Committee on Academic Performance, Board members also adopted a change to the way the core-course GPA is calculated, allowing only the 16 best grades meeting the required distribution of math, science, English and other courses, to count toward the final GPA. Current practice allows as many core courses as a prospective student-athlete takes within the time limitation to count toward the final GPA. This change, which also is expected to improve college preparedness, will be effective Aug. 1, 2016.
Even without changing the sliding scale, the academic requirement enhancements are expected to have the most impact in the sports of football and men’s basketball, the two sports that consistently lag behind others in academic performance. Harrison, who discussed initial eligibility with Board members, said that while those sports have improved as the Academic Performance Program was implemented, a “measurable gap” still exists between those and other sports in both the Academic Progress Rate and the Graduation Success Rate.
Changing the minimum GPA for competition, the core-course progression and core-course GPA calculation is expected to enhance graduation rates in those sports while still providing access to college.