Educational Quality & Degree Completion


College athletes face tremendous obstacles in receiving a quality education and completing their degree.  Despite the rhetoric, colleges prioritize their players’ athletic contributions and revenue over players’ academics success.  Players must schedule classes around an athletic schedule with overwhelming time demands.  The time college athletes truly on sports greatly exceeds the NCAA’s in-season “20 hours” per week limit which does not count travel time, game day meetings, competitions that exceed 3 hours, and other mandatory athletic activities. 

Every college that allows an athlete to compete in intercollegiate athletics should provide a realistic opportunity for players to obtain a quality education, complete their degree in the major of their choice, and allow players to pursue non-athletic opportunities during their college career.  To accomplish this, the NCPA is advocating for key policy changes to address challenges identified below. 

Challenges (Expandable)

  • NCAA 2015 “GOALS” Study:
    • Division I college athletes spend a median of 32hrs per week in their sport including 40 hrs per week for baseball players and 42 hrs per week for football players during the season, respectively.
    • Over 1/3/ of NCAA athletes say athletic time demands do not allow them to take desired classes. 
    • Approximately 35%-41% of DI and DII athletes report lacking adequate time to keep up with classes during the season
    • 30% of DI FBS football and DI men’s basketball players would have chosen a different major if they were not in college sports
    • 66% of all DI and DII athletes, including 75% or more of football, baseball, and track athletes, report spending as much time on their sport during the off-season as they do during the season.
    • Between 66%-76% of DI and DII athletes would prefer to spend more time on academics.
    • D-I baseball and men and women’s basketball players miss more than 2 classes per week because of athletic time demands during the season.
    • Approximately 40-45% of DI and DII athletes report wanting to spend more time working at a job.
    • 33% of DI athletes and 22% of DII athletes want to participate in travel abroad programs but cannot because of college athletics.
  • Recent NCAA rule change eliminates college athletes’ mandatory 1 day off per week, allowing colleges to require players to spend 24 days in a row in their sport. 
  • USA Today study: 83% of Division I colleges had at least one team in which at least 1/3 of the player were “clustered” into the same major.
  • Some coaches ban players from team activities only to claim that the player voluntarily quit in order to kick the athlete off the team and reallocate his/her scholarship.

Conflicting Graduation Rate Calculation Methods

  • The Adjusted Graduation Gap (AGG) is the most informative and transparent graduation rate metric.  It is the calculation of any gap between graduation rates of college athletes (full-time students per NCAA rules) and full-time regular college students.  It provides an “apples to apples’ comparison between athletes and regular college students that can help accurately measure the degree to which institutional, athletic association, and/or public policy affects college athletes’ academic performance.
  • The NCAA-invented Graduation Success Rates (GSR) automatically counts a player, who is in good academic standing and transfers from a college, as a graduate regardless of whether or not the player ever complete his or her degree.  Also, it does not allow for graduation rate comparisons between college athletes and regular full-time students because GSRs do not exist for regular students.  Colleges do not calculate this NCAA graduation rate method for regular students.
  • The Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) measures the rate at which an institution graduates college athletes and regular students that initially enroll at the institution.  However, it compares college athletes (full-time students) with a combination of both full-time and part-time regular students.  This is problematic because part-time students’ graduation rates are typically lower than that of full-time students and prevents an “apples to apples” comparison with college athletes.  In addition, the FGR automatically counts college transfers against an institution’s graduation rates regardless of whether or not a transfer graduates at another institution. 

 Key Policy Solutions (Expandable)

  • Create a degree completion fund allowing colleges to set aside funds for athletes to receive upon degree completion or, for those who do not complete their degree, to use the funds towards the cost of attendance and receive any remainder.  This will help ensure athletics revenue supports colleges’ tax-exempt educational mission.
  • Prohibit athletic personnel interference of players’ academic major selection.
  • Disclose to recruits, current athletes, and the public any majors with prerequisite and/or required courses that will prevent or delay degree completion due to mandatory athletic activities.
  • Disclose to recruits, current athletes, and the public the percentage of athletes enrolled in each academic major on each team.
  • Prohibit college athletic academic advisors and assign college athletes regular academic advisors to help ensure college athletes’ academic choices are not subject to undue influence from their athletic programs.
  • Prohibit athletic personnel interference of players’ studying, employment, extracurricular activities, volunteerism and travel abroad opportunities that do not violate athletic association rules and do not conflict with predetermined mandatory athletic activities including preseason and post-season practices and competitions.
  • Require at least 20% of head coaches’ salaries to be tied to his/her team’s graduation rate performance.
  • Prohibit academic consequences for players who miss class to attend required intercollegiate athletic activities.
  • Extend the scholarship for a player that has exhausted eligibility without completing an undergraduate degree for one semester/quarter for each postseason in which the player missed 20% or more of their classes due to mandatory athletic activities.
  • Allow injured players with traumatic brain injury and/or a condition that will take at least 4 weeks to recover the opportunity to take a leave of absence without jeopardizing their eligibility and retaining the duration of their scholarship.
  • Permanently injured players receive an equivalent scholarship until the earlier of undergraduate degree completion or a total of 5 years when combined with any previous athletic scholarship.
  • Provide an equivalent scholarship for up to one year or until the college athlete completes his or her primary undergraduate degree, whichever is shorter, to a college athlete who was on an athletic scholarship, remains in good standing, has exhausted his or her athletic eligibility, and whose team’s Adjusted Graduation Gap (see graduation rate methods below) is at least 5% lower than that of regular students at his or her institution.
  • Prohibit the termination of an athlete’s athletic scholarship on the grounds that the athlete quit the team or failed to attend mandatory athletic activities if the athlete was in any way prohibited from or encouraged not to participate in mandatory athletic activities by athletic personnel. 
  • Similar to high school baseball players, allow underclassmen from any sport that enter a professional sport’s draft and be drafted to choose to stay in college instead, continue their intercollegiate athletics career, and make progress toward degree completion. This would extend the NCAA’s new rule regarding this issue.
  • Void the new NCAA rule that allows the termination of an athletic scholarship for athletes disclosing an interest in transferring.
  • Designate institution personnel as mandated reporters of violations and grant whistleblower protections for institution personnel and athletes reporting a violation.