The NCAA Eligibility Center has announced it is extending the COVID-19 waiver that was first put into place in April 2020 in response to the disruptions to academic life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally meant to provide relief for the high school class of 2020, its provisions were extended to the classes of 2021 and 2022 in April 2021. Now, student-athletes entering college in the 2023-24 school year will enjoy the same benefits.
The provisions of the waiver include:
SAT or ACT test scores: the NCAA Eligibility Center has eliminated the SAT/ACT score as a requirement of academic eligibility. With the pandemic raging in the spring of 2020, test centers closed and students were unable to sit for the required standardized tests. Universities responded by dropping testing requirements – some for a trial period, some permanently – and the NCAA quickly followed suit.
The NCAA Standardized Test Score Task Force was established in April 2021 to conduct a review of its testing requirements within the initial-eligibility process. It focused on (1) Initiatives to advance racial equity (a review of testing requirements had been identified as one of the NCAA’s eight action items to advance racial equity in the summer of 2020); (2) Higher education’s shifting position on standardized tests for admissions processes; and (3) Ongoing NCAA Standards Evaluation.
In April 2022, the Standardized Test Score Task Force recommended the permanent removal of the test score requirement. Its recommendation will be voted on at the NCAA Convention, which will take place from January 11-14, 2023, in San Antonio, Texas.
The NCAA is quick to point out that students may still need to take the SAT for admission to a particular college or university or for an academic scholarship that might complement an athletic grant, so it is up to the student to determine whether or not to take the test.
Without the SAT or ACT, together which with a student’s GPA used to be the basis of a sliding scale of academic eligibility, the NCAA will now determine academic status by the GPA alone. Prospective student-athletes must achieve a GPA of 2.3 in the 16 core courses for Division I and a 2.2 for Division II.
Distance or virtual learning: When schooling went online, the NCAA accepted courses taken in distance, e-learning or hybrid programs offered by their high schools, without doing a separate review of those programs. That directive will continue. “Students may complete their NCAA-approved core courses through the channels of instruction provided or recommended by their school, district or state department of education.”
Pass/fail grades: Pass/fail grades on a student’s transcript can only help the student. “If the student’s core-course GPA would increase by assigning a value of 2.300, this value will be assigned to the passed courses. However, if the student’s core-course GPA would decrease by including the 2.300 value for passed courses, the student’s core-course GPA will be calculated based only on courses with assigned letter grades from previous terms (credit from these courses will still be applied toward the student’s core-course requirements).” Before 2020, “pass” on a student’s transcript was treated as the high school’s lowest passing grade, most often a D, and was assigned a value of 1.0.
The virtual learning and P/F grades provisions will extend to freshmen and sophomores, as well. For example, any online classes and P/F grades on their transcript will still be treated favorably to the student through their graduation in 2025.