Special Issue Editors’ Note: High Impact Practices in Intercollegiate Athletics

Ellen J. Staurowsky – Drexel University & Ithaca College
Anthony Weaver – Elon University
Jessica R. Braunstein-Minkove – Towson University
David Shonk – James Madison University

The relationship between athletics and academics represents an ongoing preoccupation for researchers and public policy makers. The question of whether college athletes receive the full benefit of the educational opportunities promised to them at the time of their recruitment and enrollment is one that has endured for well over a century. The impetus for this special issue emerges from two bodies of research, one dealing with high impact educational practices (HIPs) and student engagement (Kuh, 2008; Finley & McNair, 2013) and the other focusing on college athlete academic success in its myriad permutations in academic clustering (Houston & Baber, 2017; Paule-Koba, 2019), graduation rates and graduation gaps (Harper, 2018; Turner, Southall, & Eckard, 2015), time demands (Penn Schoen Berland, 2015), and absences and missed class time (Carter, 2017).

This special issue sought submissions from scholars who were exploring college athlete academic engagement and success through the lens of HIPs as conceived by Kuh (2008), meaning active teaching and learning practices that have been found to support student success. High impact practices that have been found to increase rates of student retention and engagement include first year seminars and experiences, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, undergraduate research, diversity/global learning, e-portfolios, service-learning, community-based learning, internships, and capstone courses and projects (Kuh, 2008). The timing for such a focused conversation on college athletes, academics, and access to high impact educational practices coincides with a need identified by Schneider and Albertine (2013) to pursue more nuanced research about HIPs and specific student cohorts.

College athletes, as an identifiable cohort, offer an opportunity to expand on the literature. They also provide a unique grouping that is known to encounter challenges that undermine their educational interests (Paskus & Bell, 2016). In one NCAA study, 40% of Division I athletes reported that they did not feel positive about their ability to keep up with their classes while in-season. In that same study, more than a third of Division I athletes indicated that a commitment to their team prevented them from studying abroad, while only 10% of Division I athletes reported they had either studied abroad or would have an opportunity to do so. Further, more than a third of Division I athletes reported that they were unable to take a desired course because of their athletic commitment (Paskus & Bell, 2016).

Our call generated robust interest from scholars around the country and in this volume we are pleased to share eight articles. Each of these articles speak in quite interesting and, at times, very different ways to college athlete academic engagement. In addition, they suggest how HIPs are employed, or could be employed, in helping athletes both access and traverse educational opportunities available on campuses. The collection of articles covers the trajectory of the college athlete’s experience from transition into college through the end of their careers, highlighting the subtle and overt barriers that college athletes experience in pursuit of their academic aspirations; the racial dynamics embedded in athletic and academic programs that affect Black athlete academic engagement; the role of HIPs in unlocking educational opportunity; and the role of HIPs in support of college athlete transitions out of sport.