Division I student-athletes continue to make gains in the classroom, again earning all-time high results in the most recent measurement of the Academic Progress Rate.

The 2014-15 overall four-year rate is 979, up one point from the previous year’s mark. Three-point improvements in men’s and women’s basketball and football all contributed to that increase. Men’s basketball teams earned a 964 (up from 961), women’s basketball teams earned a 978 (up from 975) and football teams earned a 959 (up from 956).

Also notable was the steady increase in scores earned by teams at limited-resource schools and historically black colleges and universities. The single-year APR for limited-resource schools increased from 945 to 966 in the last five years, while HBCUs saw an increase from 918 to 956 during that time.

NCAA President Mark Emmert applauded Division I student-athletes for their continued academic achievement and dedication to earning a degree.

“Division I student-athletes learn to balance playing a sport they love with the pursuit of a degree, and we honor their continued success in the classroom. The APR data prove that students can achieve both academically and athletically,” Emmert said. “Supporting our students as they work toward graduation is a top priority of everyone involved in college athletics.”

Every Division I sports team across the nation calculates its APR each academic year, similar to a report card. Scholarship student-athletes each semester earn one point for remaining eligible and one point for staying in school or graduating.

As tracked through the APR, more than 14,000 former college athletes have returned to school to get their degrees since the NCAA created the measurement tool. Each of those students earns back a lost APR point for their team. More than 7,500 competed in baseball, men’s basketball, football and women’s basketball – the highest-profile sports in college athletics. Each of those graduates earned APR points for their team.

“The ultimate goal of any student entering college is graduation, and I am glad to see so many more students earn their degrees,” said Committee on Academics chair Roderick J. McDavis, president at Ohio University. “We continue to encourage schools to reach out to former students and to support current students in reaching this objective.”

The Committee on Academics late last year approved a plan to continue supporting the efforts of limited-resource and historically black colleges and universities to improve the academic success of their student-athletes. The plan includes a continuation of existing penalty filters with a subtle shift in how they are used.APR_ncaa

For example, HBCU and limited-resource teams have historically been able to avoid penalties by meeting a separate standard that includes improvement and a graduation rate that exceeds that of the student body at the school. While those filters will still be available, teams will not be allowed to use them every year. Committee members decided to limit the use of filters to spur schools to continue to work toward academic achievement. The plan also includes a more rigorous review of APR improvement plans.

Additionally, the national office is launching a series of educational initiatives to help limited-resource schools provide their student-athletes with additional academic support. The new elements will augment theAccelerating Academic Success Program, which has allocated more than $15 million to assist those schools in developing and supporting academic programs that help student-athletes earn their degrees.

Also earlier this year, Board of Governors authorized an additional $200 million distribution to Division I members, with the funds designated for student-focused initiatives like academic support.

Rates are an average of each school’s performance for the last four years. National aggregates are based on all teams with usable data at the time of analysis. APRs for each team, lists of teams receiving public recognition and those receiving sanctions are available online through the NCAA’s searchable database.

Postseason access loss and penalties

In order to compete in the 2016-17 postseason, teams must achieve a 930 four-year APR. NCAA member representatives chose the 930 standard because that score predicts a 50 percent graduation rate for the team. Additionally, teams must earn at least a 930 APR to avoid penalties.

“The goal of the Academic Performance Program is to encourage academic achievement, not to punish those who don’t meet the mark. We will continue to work with schools and teams who don’t reach the 930 standard to make sure every student-athlete has the opportunity to succeed,” Emmert said.

Teams scoring below 930 can face consequences intended to direct additional focus on academics. Those penalties can include practice restrictions and playing-season reductions. The intention is to fill time that would have been spent on athletics with academic activities.

Twenty-three teams in Division I will be ineligible for the postseason in 2016-17 due to their low APR, compared with 21 teams last year.

In 2016-17, 31 teams are subject to penalties – in addition to the postseason requirement – for not meeting the minimum academic standard set by member schools. In 2015-16, 28 teams took penalties.

Schools may request a waiver from some or all penalty elements. Waivers are overseen by the Committee on Academics. The Academic Performance Program penalty structure includes three levels, with penalties increasing in severity at each level. Schools move through the penalty structure each year, progressing to the next level of severity if their multiyear APR remains below the benchmarks.

The specific penalties for each team are listed on the school’s report in the APR searchable database.

Level One penalties focus on practice restrictions, which provide additional time for teams to focus on academics. Teams facing this penalty lose four hours and one day of practice time per week in season, which is intended to be replaced with academic activities. In 2016-17, 10 teams face this level of penalty.

Level Two penalties include the Level One penalty and a reduction of four hours of practice time out of season, which is intended to be replaced with academic activities. At Level Two, the team’s non-championship season, or spring football, is eliminated. Teams without non-championship seasons face a reduced number of contests. In 2016-17, six teams fall into this category.

Level Three penalties include all Level One and Two penalties, plus a menu of potential additional penalties. These can include additional practice and contest restrictions; coach-specific penalties (including game and recruiting restrictions); restricted access to practice for incoming students who fall below certain academic standards; restricted membership; and potential multiyear bans on postseason competition. Fifteen teams face this level of penalty in 2016-17.