The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is celebrating what campus officials are calling “a feat never before accomplished by its athletics program — the winning of a major grant from the National Collegiate Athletics Association that will vastly improve the level of academic support that it will be able to extend to its student-athletes.”

The grant, known as the Accelerating Academic Success Program, is a comprehensive, multi-year grant dispersed over a period of three years, according to a news release.

UAPB is one of just three schools nationally which saw its application for the award approved and one of just two athletics programs that were awarded the maximum amount of $900,000. Southern University, like UAPB, is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference and was also awarded a $900,000 AASP grant. Morgan State University, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, was awarded $887,700.

“We’re elated to receive the multi-year comprehensive grant from the NCAA,” UAPB Chancellor Lawrence B. Alexander said in the news release. “This award honors the supportive academic environment that exists in our athletics department and it recognizes the broad university-wide support for even greater academic achievement by student-athletes across campus units.”

Lonza Hardy Jr., UAPB’s Director of Athletics, echoed Chancellor Alexander’s sentiments, saying getting the AASP grant is an historic accomplishment for the University’s athletics program.

“The $900,000 AASP grant will be a game-changer for Golden Lion athletics,” said Hardy in the news release.

“With it, we will not only be able to implement initiatives which will positively affect our academic support program during the duration of the three-year grant period, but those initiatives will extend well into the future. This was our third time applying for the multi-year grant and winning it this time around is a testament to the collective efforts of personnel in our athletics program as well as key individuals from other areas across the UAPB campus which are integral to the success of all of our students.”

Hardy said the initiatives of UAPB’s AASP grant application, the brainchild of Student-Athlete Academic Services Director Kimberly Evans, includes four initiatives which should aid the athletics program as it works to make sure that UAPB student-athletes continue to pace their non-athlete counterparts in academic achievement.

The initiatives include: installation of a Student-Athlete Academic Center at the J. Thomas May Field House, hiring of additional academic counselors and tutors and the purchase of computer hardware and software; funding to increase the number of student-athletes who will be able to attend the LIONS summer bridge program; a Degree Completion and Scholarship Program that will assist students who will need additional time to earn their degrees after their playing eligibility has expired; and professional development that will provide funds for members of the academic support staff to take advantage of opportunities that would help them to better assist student-athletes.

Schools eligible to apply for the AASP comprehensive multi-year grant program are non-Football Bowl Subdivision Division I schools in the bottom 10 percent of resources as determined by per capita institutional expenditures, athletics department funding and Pell Grant aid. Bernard Franklin, the NCAA’s Executive Vice-President of Education and Community Engagement and Chief Inclusion Officer, said he has been pleased with the program’s success.

“The impact of the Accelerating Academic Success Program has exceeded expectations and the reach has expanded far beyond the Academic Progress Rate (APR),” Franklin said in the news release.

“The program’s success is an illustration of the transformation that can take place when adequate resources are combined with creative and strategic planning.”

In addition to the three universities which have been awarded the multi-year grants, six other universities have been awarded single-year grants. Combined with the multi-year grants, a total of $3.1 million is being dispersed to the nine schools by the NCAA.

For UAPB, the AASP grant comes just four months after the athletics program received a $315,000 grant from the NCAA which is being used to assist with academic support, promotions and athletics training services. This year alone, the athletics program at UAPB has generated more than $1.2 million to better serve its student-athletes.

For more information about the grant, please call Kimberly Evans at (870) 575-7900.