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Post date: March 30 2015

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement To Ensure Equal Access To Athletic Programs At Junior Colleges Nationally

Agreement Offers Equal Opportunity For Student Participation In Athletic Programs Regardless Of National Origin

Schneiderman: Equal Educational Opportunity Requires Access To All Programs Schools Offer To Students In New York And Across Our Country

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with the National Junior College Athletic Association (“NJCAA”), to eliminate an eligibility rule that limited the participation of students who attended fewer than three years of high school in the United States in their member colleges’ athletic programs. As part of the settlement, the NJCAA has agreed to eliminate the rule nationally, engage in outreach to junior colleges and students about the change, and submit any future eligibility rules concerning students’ national origin to the Attorney General for review.

“My office is committed to ensuring equal educational access to all students in New York State, regardless of national origin,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Our state remains one of the most thriving in the nation because of the millions of immigrants that, for centuries, have come here seeking opportunity through their own hard work. New York is committed to the principle that such opportunity is best realized through an educational system open to all students, regardless of where they were born or attended high school. Our agreement with the NJCAA will help ensure that the valuable, character-building athletic programs they organize for junior colleges in New York and across the country are open to all students.”

CUNY Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Frank Sanchez said, "These rule changes will provide undocumented students access to the full array of CUNY programs and activities that make up our distinctive collegiate experience, including intercollegiate athletics."  

The NJCAA is the second-largest national intercollegiate sports association, after the NCAA, with a membership of 525 public and private junior and two-year colleges across the country, including 41 member colleges in New York State. Its stated mission is to “foster a national program of athletic participation in an environment that supports equitable opportunities consistent with the educational objectives of member colleges.”

In 2012, the NJCAA adopted a national eligibility rule that had the effect of limiting participation in the athletic programs of its member colleges to students who had attended at least three years of high school in the U.S. In the fall of 2014, several public junior colleges in New York State brought the rule to the Attorney General’s attention, citing the importance of athletic programs to the academic and general success of their students. The rule had a particularly negative impact upon urban junior college systems that serve a large number of immigrant students. For example, in fall 2013, 39% of students enrolled at junior colleges within the City University of New York system were born outside the mainland United States. And among CUNY’s first-time junior college freshmen, 7.2% attended high school for some period outside the United States.

In response to these concerns, and the possibility that the NJCAA’s eligibility rule violated state and local non-discrimination laws concerning national origin, the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an inquiry into the NJCAA eligibility rules in February 2015. As a result of the Attorney General’s inquiry, the Association immediately suspended the eligibility rule and ultimately agreed to eliminate it on a permanent basis.

Under the terms of the agreement, the NJCAA will:

  • Permanently eliminate the eligibility rule for member colleges nationwide;
  • Develop an outreach campaign to member colleges and their students concerning elimination of the rule and the opportunities available for all student-athletes. The campaign will include notices on the NJCAA website; fact sheets for distribution by athletic directors at member colleges; and quarterly posts to the Association’s various social media accounts, through January 2016;
  • Submit for the Attorney General’s review any proposed eligibility rule concerning a student’s citizenship status, national origin, or residency in the U.S., through 2017; and
  • Report to the Attorney General complaints made by any member college, student, or prospective student in New York State, alleging discrimination on the basis of citizenship status or national origin.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Anjana Samant and Justin Deabler, and Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.

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