NAIA’s Leah McCormack: Clearinghouse Benefits Thousands of Student-Athletes with Transcripts, and Eligibility Requirements
Before every athletic season, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has the mission of verifying the eligibility of thousands of student-athletes throughout the country. The organization recently announced a partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse to make the process more efficient and cost effective for both schools and students through the Clearinghouse’s Transcript Ordering Service. In this blog, Leah McCormack, NAIA’s Vice President of Business Development & Eligibility Services, discusses the benefits to students and institutions because of this arrangement.
Can you provide a high-level overview of the NAIA and your role with the organization?
NAIA is a national athletics collegiate organization with 250 institutions across the U.S. and Canada. We are the experts in the business of small college athletics. We administer the athletics programs for our members and oversee student-athlete eligibility. My role specifically is to manage our eligibility center, which is focused on processing the eligibility for 35,000 student-athletes each year, to compete at our member institutions for the first time. We process over 70,000 transcripts from these students.
What are some of the challenges institutions face confirming the eligibility of student-athletes?
The challenge is that transferring student-athletes coming through the eligibility center must provide official transcripts from each of the previous higher education institutions that they’ve attended to be eligible. We review these transcripts, evaluate the credits they have earned, and validate that they meet the requirements. To date, the burden of requesting and sending transcripts has been on the students.
This process can be incredibly time consuming for students, especially if they’ve been to multiple schools. In our experience, many of these students will wait until the last minute to complete this process. As a result, there’s a deluge of eligibility requests right before the fall sports season starts. This creates administrative challenges to process these last-minute requests and impacts the students’ ability to participate in their sport.
How do these challenges impact students?
Many of these students didn’t realize they had to request their transcripts, and they come to us lost and wondering how to do it? And our answer had been, well, you have to request your transcript from each institution you attended. We were unable to explain the policies of every school, and it put the onus on the student.
How will partnering with the Clearinghouse be beneficial for NAIA, schools, and students?
This is a natural partnership because of how well respected the Clearinghouse is in the higher education community. The Clearinghouse is the nation’s trusted source for academic verification. For years, we’ve relied on the Clearinghouse’s research for benchmarking. Now, we can work together to achieve a common goal of using trusted and secure academic data to allow students to follow their learning pathways while streamlining the eligibility verification process.
How can improving the eligibility verification process help disadvantaged students?
As part of this partnership, the NAIA will be covering the cost of the transcript requests for students coming from institutions within the Clearinghouse network. Low-income students tend to have statistically higher numbers of schools from which they are transferring. This makes the new process enabled by this partnership even more positively impactful for low-income students.
This partnership with the Clearinghouse will make it as easier and less costly for students to complete the transfer process. Students will now be able to opt-in to having the NAIA request their records on their behalf, making the process more seamless and less costly for students. We want students to finish their degrees and if this partnership enables us to remove some barriers that help students do that, I think that is powerful.
“As part of this partnership, the NAIA will be covering the cost of the transcript requests for students coming from institutions within the Clearinghouse network.”
NAIA Vice President of Business Development & Eligibility Services