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By Gary Brown
Conversation about the future of academic reporting in Division III at Friday’s issues forum was as diverse as the division itself.
Hundreds of Division III representatives talked about what to do with an academic reporting pilot that so far has validated what previously had been assumed – that student-athletes graduate at rates comparable with or better than students in general.
The packed ballroom addressed three issues:
Western Connecticut State President Jim Schmotter, who ran the forum discussion as vice chair of the Presidents Council and member of an academic reporting working group that oversaw the pilot, didn’t need to prompt the audience for feedback.
About 100 roundtables talked about each question sequentially and reported results. It didn’t take long for participants to hear that there was value in touting student-athlete academic success but confusion about how to apply it to the division’s collective benefit.
When all was said and done, there didn’t appear to be momentum on requiring an annual report from every institution. At the same time, there wasn’t a sense that no reporting at all was the way to go.
The resulting “somewhere between those extremes” seemed to be support for a periodic reporting for which use of the results would be more clearly defined.
The expected concern about the “administrative burden” of compiling the data was present, but many in the room said that burden was minimal, and that the desire to have the data far outweighed whatever challenge it was to provide them. Others acknowledged that the NCAA’s Graduation Rates Data Collection System gives schools what they need in terms of a standard methodology.
For those in the audience who did think there was some burden, one of the suggestions was for the NCAA to pursue conversations with campus software vendors to explore the feasibility of developing a more broadly applicable module that could mitigate existing concern.
As for the frequency of reporting, one idea that generated some crowd buzz was to incorporate academic reporting into the five-year cycle used for the Institutional Self-Study Guide, as long as that could guarantee a representative enough sample for the division to use as a national rate.
While the particulars of academic reporting won’t be decided until later, the forum did provide a range of suggestions. But the common theme was that there is interest in promoting the division’s academic success – one way or another.
One of the comments in that regard came from a SAAC member who said the data would be helpful to counter the misperception among some people about student-athlete academic performance. “These data help prove that student-athletes are academically successful,” he said, which earned applause from the room.