NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) - Tennessee State University has been awarded a $900,000 grant by the NCAA to develop enhancements to increase student-athletes' academic performance.
TSU is among six institutions to receive the grant. The other schools receiving a $900,000 grant are California State University at Northridge, Coppin State University and Jackson State University. Morehead State University will receive $360,000 and Norfolk State University will receive $330,000.
The grant, to be disbursed over three years - in $300,000 installments - is part of a $4.365 million program to help Division I schools in the Football Championship Subdivision(FCS), identified as "limited-resource" institutions, meet NCAA Academic Performance Program (APP) standards.
According to the NCAA, Division I institutions in the bottom 10 percent of resources as determined by per capita institutional expenditures, athletics department funding and Pell Grant aid were eligible to apply for the program.
"This grant provides TSU an opportunity to expand its Complete College Tennessee Act activities to ensure that needed extra services are available to our student-athletes, who because they are constantly on the road, are not always available to take full advantage of our services," said President Portia Holmes Shields.
With the emphasis of improving the graduation rate among student-athletes, the NCAA aims to help schools develop sustainable plans to ensure that all teams meet the 930 APR benchmark, which goes into effect in 2016-17 for limited-resource institutions. TSU currently has a 67 percent graduation rate for student-athletes. The APR benchmark focuses on improving the eligibility and retention of student-athletes.
As a requirement, institutions receiving the NCAA grant must develop enhancements such as summer bridge programs, financial aid for summer school, funding additional staff, as well as improving facilities and technology for student-athletes.
The University plans to use the funds to enhance already existing student success programs such as the Academic Boot Camp and Excel-O-Rate summer programs, which have shown positive retention rate among students, including student-athletes. The programs provide mentoring and monitor participants' progress for at least two years to make sure students have access to tutoring, advising, counseling and health-related services.
"This grant will help us to ensure that these enhancements are available to student-athletes at all times, including having mentors and tutors accompany student-athletes as they travel," Dr. Shields said.
The Director of Athletics, Teresa Phillips, referred to the NCAA grant as a "huge enhancement for academic support for our student-athletes."
"There are so many challenges with retaining and graduating student-athletes within the APR expectation that a great deal of attention has to be paid to student services," Phillips said. "With this grant and the support of the University, we will be able to provide the needed services to meet our benchmark of increasing student-athletes' graduation rate."
The grant is the result of a proposal put together by the athletics department with input from several individuals, according to Dr. Shields.
"We are thankful for the hard work of our athletics department and several individuals without whose help this grant would not have been possible," she said. "Specifically, I would like to thank Teresa Phillips, Director of Athletics; Dr. John Cade, Associate Provost; Dr. Gretha Burch-Sims, Director of Institutional Effectiveness; Dr. Celeste Williams, Faculty Athletic Representative; Valencia Jordan, Senior Women Administrator; Dr. Johnnie Smith, Associate AD for Academics; and Jennifer Bell, Assistant Athletics Director for Compliance."