Montana State University-Bozeman
NCAA Athletics Certification
Self-Study 2001-2002
Academic Integrity

Operating Principle

2.1 Academic Standards

The Associationís fundamental principles indicate that an intercollegiate athletics program shall be designed and maintained as a vital component of the institutionís educational system, and student-athletes shall be considered an integral part of the student body. Consistent with this philosophy, the institution shall demonstrate that:

  1. The institution admits only student-athletes who have reasonable expectations of obtaining academic degrees.
    1. If the academic profile of entering student-athletes, as a whole or for any student-athlete subgroup, is significantly lower than that of other student-athlete or comparable student-body groups, the contrast shall be analyzed and explained by appropriate institutional authorities.
    2. If the graduation rate of student-athletes, as a whole or for any student-athlete subgroup, is significantly lower than that of other student-athlete or comparable student-body groups, this disparity shall be analyzed, explained and addressed (through specific plans for improvement) by appropriate institutional authorities.
  2. Academic standards and policies applicable to student-athletes are consistent with those adopted by the institution for the student body in general or the NCAAís standard, whichever are higher.
  3. The responsibility for admission, certification of academic standing and evaluation of academic performance of student-athletes is vested in the same agencies that have authority in these matters for students generally.

Self Study Items

1. Describe the process by which student-athletes are admitted to your institution, and compare it to the process for admitting students generally. Give careful attention to key decision points (e.g. establishment of admissions criteria, approval of special admissions) in these processes and the individuals or groups involved at each point, including the role, either formal or informal, the athletics department plays (if any) in the admissions process for student-athletes.

Admission to the Montana University System in general and Montana State University-Bozeman (MSU) in particular is governed by standards and policies set forth by the Montana Board of Regents (BOR Policy: 301). These policies clearly define the specific criteria by which prospective students are eligible for admission to the individual institutions in the Montana University System. In general, the admission procedures and criteria are as follows (MSU Bulletin, pp. 10-13):

Traditional Freshman (resident and nonresident): A traditional freshman student is defined as that student who has completed high school (or high school equivalency) within three (3) years of application for admission and who has not attempted more than twelve (12) quarter/semester credits at another regionally accredited college or university. Application for admission to MSU requires submission of appropriate credentials to MSU Admissions and the subsequent determination by Admissions concerning the studentís satisfactory compliance with admission standards. Students wishing to be admitted to MSU must submit the following documents: an application for admission, application fee, official high school transcripts from an accredited high school or successful completion of a General Educational Development (GED) exam, official ACT/SAT score reports, any college transcripts, and official Advanced Placement reports if applicable.

Criteria for full admission to MSU are two-fold: numeric and curricular.

Numeric: successful completion of one (1) of the following numeric criteria:

  • cumulative grade-point average (on a 4.00 scale), or
  • ACT Enhanced Composite score of 22, or
  • SAT Combined verbal/quantitative score of 1030, or
  • Rank in the upper half of the studentís graduating class

Curricular: successful completion of a College Preparatory Curriculum; resident Montana students must have evidence of completion of the following curriculum; nonresident (out-of-state) students must show evidence of completion of a college preparatory curriculum as defined by their home state:

  • English: 4 yrs
  • Mathematics: 3 yrs (should include at least Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II)
  • Social Studies: 3 yrs (e.g. history, government, economics, psychology, geography)
  • Laboratory Science: 2 yrs (e.g. biology, chemistry, earth science, physics)
  • Other: 2 yrs (e.g. foreign language, computer science, visual and performing arts, approved vocational credits)

First-time traditional freshmen who provide the appropriate credentials and who satisfactorily comply with the established admission criteria are admitted to Montana State University.

Nontraditional Freshman: A nontraditional freshman is defined as a student who graduated from high school three (3) or more years prior to applying to MSU. These students are exempt from the numeric and college preparatory criteria. In order to be admitted, they must show evidence of successful graduation from high school (or equivalency).

Transfer Students: A transfer student is defined as any student who has attempted twelve (12) or more quarter/semester college-level credits from an accredited college or university. In order to be considered for admission to MSU, transfer students must submit the following documents to MSU Admissions: application form, application fee, and official college/university transcripts (sent directly from the previous institution). Transfer students are admitted in good standing if they transfer to MSU with a cumulative transferable grade point average of 2.00 (on a 4.00 scale). Transfer students who have earned grade point averages less than 2.00 are admitted on university probation; they must earn at least a 2.00 their first term at MSU or are subject to suspension as defined by the MSU scholastic standards (MSU Bulletin, pg. 32). Once a transfer student is admitted to MSU, Admissions officially evaluates all transfer course equivalencies and provides the student with a transfer evaluation. All determinations concerning the applicability of transfer course work to MSU general education requirements are made by Admissions; students may negotiate with their departments concerning applying and/or substituting other course work for specific degree requirements.

International Students: An international student is defined as any student who is not currently a U.S. citizen. In order to be admitted to MSU, international students must submit an application, application fee, evidence of financial support, a secondary school transcript that indicates the student has earned an equivalent 2.00 cumulative grade point average, and evidence of a TOEFL score of at least 525.

There are no distinctions made concerning the admission of students in general and student-athletes. Student-athletes are subject to identical procedures and criteria for admission as the general student population. All admission decisions are made by MSU Admissions; the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has no informal or formal role in the admissions process. There are provisions for admission for students who do not meet the established admission criteria; these are discussed under Self-Study Item 3.

2. Compare the admission profiles of student-athletes who received athletics grants-in-aid with the profiles of students in general by submitting the following information for the three most recent years: average standardized test scores for freshmen student-athletes who received athletics aid (by gender, by racial or ethnic group, and according to the eight sport groups listed in the NCAA Division I graduation rates disclosure form) and for all entering freshmen students (by gender and by racial or ethnic group). [Note: Use Attachment No. 1 and the graduation-rates disclosure form methodology to compile these data.]

A systematic comparison between the admission profiles of student-athletes and students in general indicates there are no substantive differences in the academic predictors (standardized test scores and high school GPA) between these two groups. As the following Table II-2 illustrates, the profiles of these two student groups are relatively comparable:  

Table II-2
Comparison of ACT and High School GPAs First-Time Full-Time Freshmen
 
General Students
Student-Athletes
Term
ACT1
HS GPA2
ACT1
HS GPA2
Fall 2000
23
3.35
21
3.36
Fall 1999
23
3.33
21
3.34
Fall 1998
23
3.34
23
3.50
3-yr average
23
3.34
21
3.40

1ACT scores were considered in this analysis because a majority of MSU applicants report ACT rather than SAT scores.

2Actual high school GPAs were considered in this analysis because a high school core GPA is not calculated for general students.

It is important to note that while the average ACT scores of student-athletes are below the minimum required score of 22, students must meet only one (1) of the four (4) numeric criteria for admission. Therefore, even though their ACT scores did not meet the minimum requirement, they were all fully admitted to MSU based on one of the other numeric criteria such as their high school grade point averages which are all well above the 2.50 minimum required.

Detailed analyses of admitted student academic predictors indicate that even when subgroups of gender and/or racial and ethnic background are considered, the academic profiles of general students and student-athletes are comparable. These data are detailed in the NCAA Academic Integrity Attachment No. 1, Part A-1, B-1, and Part II. Summaries of these findings are illustrated in Tables II-3 and II-4 below.  

Table II-3
Comparison of ACT Scores by Gender
 
General Students
Student-Athletes
 
M
F
M
F
Term
# Students
ACT
# Students
ACT
# Students
ACT
# Students
ACT
Fall 2000

989

24

827

23

27

22

19

21

Fall 1999

971

24

864

23

33

21

27

22

Fall 1998

1017

24

829

23

27

22

18

24

3-yr average  

24

 

23

 

21.6

 

22.3

On average, male general students have higher ACT scores than male student-athletes; the scores of female general students and female student-athletes are not significantly different. All of these students were fully admitted to MSU on at least one of the required numeric criteria.

Further analysis confirms that when considered by ethnic and/or racial group, student-athlete and general student ACT scores are not substantially different. It is important to note that most ethnic and/or racial groups other than white are clearly underrepresented in the student body at MSU. Therefore, comparisons among groups should be done cautiously.  

Table II-4
Comparison of ACT Score by Ethnic/Racial Group
 

Fall 2000

Fall 1999

Fall 1998

 

General Students

Student-Athletes

General Students

Student-Athletes

General Students

Student-Athletes

Ethnicity

# Stu

ACT

# Stu

ACT

# Stu

ACT

# Stu

ACT

# Stu

ACT

# Stu

ACT

Asian

9

24

6

20

29

22

0

n/a

15

24

1

24

Black

5

21

5

19

6

23

6

21

1

31

1

17

Hispanic

23

22

0

n/a

19

22

0

n/a

20

23

0

n/a

Native Am

31

23

0

n/a

29

22

0

n/a

35

22

2

24

Other

70

23

1

25

137

24

0

n/a

136

22

0

n/a

White

1678

24

34

22

1615

24

54

21

1639

24

41

23

In conclusion, MSU has clearly delineated policies, procedures, and criteria for admission of students to the university. The responsibility for discharging this function is housed with MSU Admissions which is under direct supervision of the University Registrar and the Vice President for Student Affairs.

A comparison of the general student and student-athlete profiles indicates that the two groups are comparable with regard to standard academic predictors, and therefore, have equal probability of being successful in the pursuit of degrees of their choosing.

3. (a) Describe the process by which students may be admitted if they do not meet the institutionís standard or normal entrance requirements. This should include any second-level or subsequent review processes or appeals procedures that may be utilized when students are not automatically admitted because they do not meet the institutionís published entrance requirements.

In an effort to phase in admission criteria in 1990, the Board of Regents policy included provisions for exemptions. Each institution in the Montana University System was charged with developing a procedure for identifying and approving exemptions. During the first phase (fall 1990), institutions were allowed a 15% exemption for both numeric criteria and college preparatory curriculum. In the second phase (fall 1991 to fall 1994), institutions were allowed a 10% discretionary exemption for each admission category. Since fall 1995, the exemption rate has been set at 5% for each admission category. These provisions for exemption were designed primarily to provide opportunities for the secondary schools in the state of Montana to make curricular improvements and to implement college preparatory curricula if it was not already available.

In order to assure that students who are admitted under exemption are reviewed consistently and fairly, MSU utilizes the following policies and procedures.

Numeric Exemption: The institution has identified acceptable ranges for the numeric criteria. In order to be considered for admission as a numeric exemption, the following criteria must be met:

  • 2.00 Ė 2.49 cumulative grade-point average (on a 4.00 scale) and
  • ACT Enhanced Composite score of no less than 20 or
  • SAT combined verbal/quantitative score no less than 920

College Preparatory Curriculum Exemption: In-state applicants who have not met the college preparatory requirements are considered for admission to MSU on a case-by-case basis. GPA, ACT or SAT scores are taken into consideration, as well as the courses completed. A majority of in-state applicants have a college preparatory diploma. Out-of-state applicants who have not completed the college preparatory requirements may satisfy the requirements by providing satisfactory evidence that they have completed a similar college preparatory program in their home states. In the event there is no such option in their state, they may be admitted based on two (2) of the four (4) numeric criteria.

Students who are denied regular admission to the university may be granted provisional admission to the institution. These students are allowed to enroll in no more than seven (7) credits and are required to earn a minimum 2.00 GPA their first term of attendance. If they fail to perform satisfactorily, they are suspended from the institution. If they demonstrate satisfactory performance, they may be granted full admission to the institution and enroll as a full time student. A student-athlete would be academically ineligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics if he/she were provisionally admitted to the institution since his/her credit load would be less than the twelve (12) credits required for eligibility.

Appeals Process: Students who have been denied admission or granted provisional admission may appeal that decision. Appeals are submitted in writing to the Admission and Graduation Requirements Board (GARC) whose specific charge is to hear appeals related to admission decisions, university rules and regulations, and graduation requirements. The board is comprised of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs (chair), the Registrar, and the Dean (or designee) of the appropriate college. Provisionally admitted students may appeal the seven (7) credit restriction and request to enroll as full time students (12 credits or more).

This procedure is available to students in general and student-athletes alike. There are no distinctions made in the appeal process; the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics plays no informal or formal role in student appeals.

3. (b) Compare and explain any differences between the percentage of freshman student-athletes receiving athletics aid who were admitted through any of the processes described in part (a) above and the percentage of freshman students generally who were so admitted.

The following Table II-5 illustrates the number and percentage of freshmen students who were admitted as numeric exemptions.  

Table II-5
Comparison of General Students and Student-Athletes Numeric Exemptions
 

Fall 2000

Fall 1999

Fall 1998

 

General Students

Student-Athletes

General Students

Student-Athletes

General Students

Student-Athletes

#
Students

23

0

16

1

25

0

% Students

1.24%

n/a

0.84%

0.05%

1.32%

n/a

Avg. GPA

2.37

n/a

2.20

2.39

2.27

n/a

Avg. ACT

20

n/a

20

16

20

n/a

Avg. SAT

803

n/a

n/a

890

844

n/a

Since the number of first-time full-time freshmen at MSU is approximately 1800 students, the institution has the discretion to admit approximately ninety (90) students who do not meet the published numeric criteria and approximately ninety (90) students who do not meet the college preparatory curriculum. As the data clearly illustrate, MSU admits significantly fewer students as exemptions than is allowed by BOR policy. Also, MSU has admitted only one (1) student-athlete (football) under the numeric exemption allowance. (See Academic Integrity Attachment No. 2.)

4. List the step-by-step sequence of actions taken by particular individuals on your institutionís campus to certify the initial eligibility for transfer student-athletes. Identify the individual(s) with final authority for certifying initial eligibility, and their titles.

Certification of initial transfer student-athlete eligibility is a well-defined two-step process. A student must be evaluated by Admissions (or the Registrarís designee) to determine if he/she is eligible for admission to MSU. Criteria governing admission of transfer students is discussed under Self-Study Item 2. Concurrently, the MSU Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) must evaluate the studentís compliance with athletic eligibility pursuant to the regulations delineated under NCAA Bylaw 14.5. When necessary, he consults with the certifying officer of the studentís intended major for interpretations of degree completion requirements. A copy of the Montana State University Transfer Admission Requirements Worksheet is included in Appendix II-A.

Final authority for certifying admissibility to the institution is Mr. Charles Nelson, Registrar; final authority for certifying initial eligibility for participation in intercollegiate athletics is Dr. Robert Oakberg, FAR. The following Figure II-1 illustrates the process.

5. List the step-by-step sequence of actions taken by particular individuals on your institutionís campus to certify student-athletesí continuing eligibility. Identify by name and title the individual(s) with final authority for certifying continued eligibility.

Certifying student-athletesí continuing eligibility involves an ongoing process which involves auditing the student-athleteís satisfactory academic performance and reporting those findings to the appropriate individuals. The procedure consists of daily as well as term auditing of relevant MSU, NCAA and Big Sky Conference requirements for satisfactory progress. In most cases, the Athletics Academic Coordinator (AAC) is responsible for the management of student records and reporting student status to the university FAR. The AAC is an employee of the Registrar and acts as his designee in discharging her duties with regard to the auditing and certification of student records. The FAR has the final authority for certification of continued eligibility. His findings are reported to the student-athlete, the appropriate head coach, the Director of Compliance, and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. A summary of the cycle of certification is illustrated in the following Figure II-2.

The following matrix illustrates a sample of criteria regularly audited to determine continued eligibility. The matrix lists competition term, criteria audited, auditor responsible, and action taken if criteria are met or not met. Table II-6 is a sample of criteria audited; determination of eligibility includes but is not limited to the criteria listed.  

Table II-6
Continuing Eligibility Sample Competition Term and Satisfactory Progress Matrix

Competition Term

Criteria

Audited

Auditor

Action if Criteria is Met

All Athletes

Must be enrolled in 12 credits

Daily

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

 

Must maintain MSU scholastic standards

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

End 1st term

Must maintain GPA per Big Sky standards and MSU scholastic standards

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

End 2nd term

Must complete 24 credits

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

 

Must maintain GPA per Big Sky standards and MSU scholastic standards

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

End 3rd term

Must maintain GPA per Big Sky standards and MSU scholastic standards

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

End 4th term

Must complete 25% of degree requirements

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

End 5th term

Must declare major by 5th term of enrollment

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

End 7th term

Must complete 50% of degree requirements

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

Continuing eligibility check

Completed 8 semesters of competition

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Ineligible/

May apply for 5th yr aid

End 9th term

Must complete 75% of degree requirements

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

Graduating Senior

May enroll in less than 12 credits

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

JR College Transfer

Must maintain MSU/JR College averaged GPA of 2.00

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

 

Must obtain/maintain MSU 2.00 GPA for final season of competition

Each term

AAC/FAR

Athlete Eligible

KEY:
AAC = Athletics Academic Coordinator (Office of Registrar)
FAR = Faculty Athletics Representative

The certification cycle includes, but is not limited to, the following processes:

Daily: The AAC monitors student-athlete credit loads on a daily basis. Prior to the migration to a new information system (Banner), monitoring of student credit loads was proactive. Student-athletes were Ďflaggedí in the system and precluded from dropping below the required twelve (12) credits. Migration to the new university student information system necessitated a more reactive approach that requires continuous monitoring of student-athlete credit loads. The process has been enhanced by a batch program designed by the Assistant Registrar that allows the AAC to run daily reports rather than auditing each record individually.

Beginning/End of Term: At the beginning and end of each term, the AAC audits each student-athlete on the team roster for compliance. She forwards her findings to the FAR who certifies each student-athleteís eligibility. When appropriate she and/or the FAR consult with NCAA and/or Big Sky Conference compliance officers for rules interpretation. Samples for Womenís Basketball and Golf are included in Appendix II-B. Student-athletes are also required to submit to the AAC graduation check sheets from their respective departments. The student-athleteís academic advisor and/or departmental certifying officer must sign the check sheets. The AAC consults with individual departments to verify degree completion percentages when necessary.

Midterm: At a minimum, the AAC coordinates midterm grade and attendance checks for student-athletes. She conducts more frequent checks on student-athletes identified with academic difficulties or as at-risk students. Upon request of head coaches, she conducts other grade and attendance checks as needed.

As Required: Appropriate eligibility reports are submitted as required to both the NCAA and the Big Sky Conference. The Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Registrar, and the Faculty Athletics Representative sign these reports.

6. Please attach the institutionís official NCAA graduation-rates report (institutionís two-page report) for the three most recent academic years for which this information is available.

MSU NCAA graduation-rates reports for 2000, 1999 and 1998 are included in Appendix II-C.

7. Review the graduation rates for student-athletes who received athletics grants-in-aid, various student-athlete subgroups and for students generally during the last three years, and comment on any trends or significant changes.

A systematic analysis of the six-year graduation rates of general students and student-athletes illustrates a stable and consistent pattern of completion as demonstrated in the following Table II-7.  

Table II-7
Comparison of General Student and Student-Athlete Six-Year Graduation Rates
 

General Students

Student-Athletes

Cohort

N

Grad

%

N

Grad

%

1994

1673

730

43.6%

34

17

50.0%

1993

1720

735

42.7%

42

30

71.4%

1992

1532

651

42.5%

48

26

54.2%

Graduation rates for the general student body have been very stable, averaging approximately 42%. The student-athlete graduation rate has been consistently higher than the rate of the general student body and relatively constant. The significant percent increase in the 1993 cohort can be attributed to the fact that several sport subgroups were comprised of one (1) athlete who graduated. (See Table II-9)

Further comparison in Table II-8 of six-year graduation rates for general students and student-athletes by gender demonstrate that in both groups, female students graduated at a higher rate than male students.  

Table II-8
Comparison of General Student and Student-Athlete Six-Year Graduation Rates by Gender
 

General Students

Student-Athletes

 

Male

Female

Male

Female

Cohort

N

Grad

%

N

Grad

%

N

Grad

%

N

Grad

%

1994

927

382

41.3

746

347

46.5

19

9

47.3

15

8

53.3

1993

961

391

40.8

759

344

45.5

27

18

66.7

15

12

80.0

1992

886

362

40.9

646

289

44.7

36

20

66.7

12

6

50.0

3-yr

2774

1135

40.9

2151

980

45.6

82

47

57.3

42

26

61.9

In the general student body, male students graduated at an average rate of 40%; female students graduated at an average of 45%. The same trend is evident in the student-athlete group. Male student-athletes graduated at an average rate of 57%; female student-athletes graduated at an average rate of 61%.

Finally, at the specific sport level it is difficult to draw conclusions and identify valid trends within sports because of the small numbers of participants, especially sports with five (5) or fewer.  

Table II-9
Comparison of Student-Athlete Six-year Graduation Rates by Sport Cohort
 

1994

1993

1992

Sport

N

Grad

%

N

Grad

%

N

Grad

%

Football

14

6

42.8

21

14

66.7

23

14

60.9

Menís Basketball

1

1

100.0

1

1

100

4

2

50.0

Womenís Basketball

4

2

50.0

5

4

100

0

0

n/a

Menís Track

4

2

50.0

2

2

100

6

4

66.7

Womenís Track

5

3

60.0

2

2

100

6

3

50.0

Menís Other Sports

0

0

n/a

3

1

33.3

3

0

0.0

Womenís Other Sports

6

3

50.0

8

6

75.0

6

3

50.0

In summary, six-year graduation rates for the general student body as well as student-athletes has remained relatively constant and stable over the last ten (10) years with female students in both groups graduating at a higher rate than male students and student-athletes as a whole graduating at higher rates than the general student body.

8. Describe the specific goals(s) that your institution has set for graduation of students generally and for graduation of student-athletes.

Although MSU does not have specific graduation goals or targets, it is committed to providing quality education for its approximately 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students. A variety of academic advising and student support systems (discussed in Operating Principle 2.2) supplement and enhance studentsí living and learning experiences. MSU is also very committed to facilitating studentsí satisfactory progress toward degree completion. Analogous to the satisfactory progress requirements (25-50-75 percent rule) for student-athletes, general students receiving financial aid (well over 70% of the student body) must make demonstrable academic progress in their intended degree. Published and enforced by the MSU Financial Aid Office, the satisfactory academic progress policy requires students to meet each of the following criteria to retain their eligibility for financial aid:

  • Pass 67% of the total institutional credit hours attempted at MSU
  • Maintain a minimum GPA of 2.00 and comply with MSU scholastic standards
  • Complete degree within 180 attempted credits (maximum for bachelorís degree)

The policy was designed as an incentive for students making reasonable progress toward degree completion. In contrast to schools that only audit the maximum credit hour restrictions, MSU audits satisfactory progress at the end of each academic year. A copy of the policy is included in Appendix II-D.

9. Please attach academic standards and policies contained in the universityís catalog/bulletin, athletics department manual, student-athlete handbook, and/or institutional handbook for students. Describe exceptions, if any to the institutionís regular academic standards and policies applicable to the general student body (e.g., good academic standing, definition of minimum full-time status) that are available to student-athletes.

A copy of the Student-Athlete Handbook is included in Appendix IV-J. A copy of the current Montana State University-Bozeman Bulletin accompanies this report. Student-athletes receive a copy of the MSU Bulletin at orientation. The bulletin is also available on-line at www.montana.edu/wwwcat. The Student-Athlete Handbook is distributed by the AAC to each student-athlete who must sign that he/she has read, understood and will comply with the athletic and academic expectations and codes of conduct outlined in the handbook. This signed memo of understanding is retained in the student-athleteís file. (Appendix II-E)

Student-athletes are expected to comply with the institutionís academic standards and policies. There are no differential policies and standards for student-athletes, and there are no exceptions.