Historically Black universities are receiving a significant portion of the more than $4 million in grants recently allocated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for helping Division I schools provide academic support to student-athletes.
Last week, the NCAA announced that nine schools, including six HBCUs, are recipients of Accelerating Academic Success Program grants, which support institutions in their efforts to satisfy requirements of the Division I Academic Performance Program. The program “was developed to ensure schools provide an environment that supports education while enhancing the ability of student-athletes to earn a degree,” according to the NCAA.
Recipients of the three-year Accelerating Academic Success Program Comprehensive Grants are Alcorn State University ($900,000), California State University, Bakersfield ($870,686), Hampton University ($675,000), Florida A&M University ($675,000), Delaware State University ($449,850) and North Carolina A&T State University ($277,284.38).
“The comprehensive grants will be … used to fund increased academic support services staffing and space; technology upgrades (software and hardware); career planning; professional development; and increased availability of summer financial aid for student-athletes,” the NCAA said in a statement.
Schools can seek a maximum of $300,000 annually for three years. Grant recipient schools are required to match grant dollars each year of the program. In the first year, the school must make a 25-percent match. A 50-percent match is required in the second year and 75-percent match in the third year.
Recipients of the single-year Accelerated Academic Success Program Initiatives Grants are California State University, Northridge ($100,000), Idaho State University ($8,333.33) and Texas Southern University ($80,608).
Institutions qualifying for the Accelerated Academic Success Program grants are non-Football Bowl Subdivision I schools in the bottom 10 percent of resources as determined by rates of institutional expenditures, athletics department funding, and Pell Grant aid.
“With the additional resources and support, the grant will allow us to demand higher outcomes for our student-athletes,” said Jason Cable, associate athletic director for compliance at Alcorn State University.
Cable told Diverse that with new funding the Alcorn State athletics department expects this academic year to provide scholarship support for 15 to 20 fifth-year students whose athletic eligibility has run out so that they can complete their degree. As they finish their schooling, those former athletes will be expected to mentor current student-athletes. In addition, the athletics department will hire two academic counselors bringing its total to five for managing roughly 300 student-athletes at the Lorman, Miss.-based school.
“Degree completion is our number-one focus. This (initiative) affords student-athletes an opportunity to graduate with their peers because we will have funds set aside for them to come back and earn their degree,” he said.
Cable noted that hiring two additional counselors will improve the athlete-to-counselor ratio from 100 to 1 to 60 to 1. “We believe that increased attention for individual student-athletes will have an immediate impact on their retention,” he said.
Earl Hilton III, director of intercollegiate athletics at North Carolina A&T State University, said its three-year grant will support the hiring of an academic counselor and a learning specialist. The new hires will increase the athletics department’s academic counseling staff from four to six at the Greensboro, N.C.-based university.
“It’s a fairly straightforward solution. … From my perspective, there’s no mystery in how (Academic Progress Rate) challenges are resolved,” he said.
“Additional academic support staff to provide coverage of your student-athletes and additional opportunities for summer school … are two steps we’ve taken in the last three to four years that have improved student-athlete retention,” Hilton explained, noting that North Carolina A&T has roughly 325 student-athletes.
In 2012, the Accelerating Academic Success Program (AASP) was created by the NCAA Executive Committee. The AASP includes an annual conference and grants and support to Division I institutions. Last week’s awards marked the third round of AASP funding by the NCAA.