By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
One of the most notable trends in the Academic Performance Program data over the past two years has been the dramatic increase in Academic Progress Rates posted by limited-resource schools and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The Accelerating Academic Success Program is designed to assist limited-resource institutions in further developing systems and enhancements that help schools meet the requirements of the NCAA Division I Academic Performance Program (APP), including increasing the graduation rates and academic success of student-athletes.
Cal State Northridge
Although APRs at limited-resource schools and HBCUs have traditionally lagged behind other Division I institutions, recent data indicate a positive change. Limited-resource schools have raised their rates 11 points in that time period while the performance of HBCUs has climbed 15 points. While additional improvement is sought, many of those working on the issue are pleased with the uptick.
“I’m optimistic,” said NCAA Executive Vice President Bernard Franklin. “Over time, these institutions will continue to flourish and meet the needs of their student-athletes.”
Franklin, who leads several programs designed to assist limited-resource schools and HBCUs with their academic challenges, credited presidential leadership and overall institutional commitment for the progress.
Dennis Thomas, commissioner of the HBCU Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, agreed.
“The presidents and chancellors made and activated a commitment to academic success,” Thomas said. He listed more dedicated resources to academic support, the encouragement of different recruiting practices and academic support integrated within the university as a whole as some of the most effective best practices championed by presidents.
Franklin said it’s too early to tell if the NCAA-created Supplemental Support Fund, money designed to help institutions with the lowest resources pay for initiatives aimed at improving the academic success of their student-athletes, has had an impact. That fund, first recommended by the Committee on Academic Performance in 2007, has helped more than 42 schools do everything from hiring additional staff to purchasing computers for a learning lab.
In 2012, the NCAA Executive Committee created the Accelerating Academic Success Program, a pilot grant program created to help limited-resource schools develop long-term systems and enhancements to improve the academic success of student-athletes. The program provides six schools with up to $300,000 per year for three years, with an increasing matching requirement for participating institutions. Franklin anticipates that program will affect schools beyond those chosen to receive funds.
“One of the major deliverables will be a codification of best practices and policies,” he said. “We hope to see the impact this first year and then showcase the institutions in a session at the 2014 NCAA Convention. Every institution is different, but we hope we can learn from some of the principles that worked in similar institutional environments.”
While both Franklin and Thomas were pleased at the upward trend, both also acknowledged that the work is not complete. More limited-resource institutions face penalties than other types of schools, and the average APRs of those schools still fall below schools with more resources.
“We have to maintain vigilance,” Thomas said. “You can’t just get to a point where you have an increase and the numbers are looking better. We have to sustain that and improve. That’s what we’re working on right now. Have we made significant improvement? Absolutely. But we cannot say we’re there.”
Franklin said no single solution will work for every institution. For some schools, more emphatic presidential leadership will produce results. At others, changed admissions policies are the answer.
“So much of this is centered on resources and mission,” Franklin said. “All we can do is support that.”