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Dear Colleague Letter


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The “Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Interpretation”7 (1979 Policy Interpretation), published on December 11, 1979, provides additional guidance on the Title IX intercollegiate athletic regulatory requirements.8 The 1979 Policy Interpretation sets out a three-part test that OCR uses to assess whether an institution is effectively accommodating the athletic interests and abilities of its students to the extent necessary to provide equal athletic opportunity.9 On January 16, 1996, OCR issued the “Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Guidance: The Three-Part Test” (1996 Clarification) to provide additional clarification on all parts of the three-part test, including the specific factors that OCR uses to evaluate compliance under the third part of the three-part test (Part Three).10

In 2005, OCR issued the Additional Clarification regarding application of the indicators in the 1996 Clarification that guided OCR’s analysis of Part Three. The accompanying User’s Guide included a prototype survey instrument (model survey) that institutions could use to measure student interest in participating in intercollegiate athletics and included specific guidance on its implementation. The Additional Clarification and User’s Guide changed OCR’s approach from an analysis of multiple indicators to a reliance on a single survey instrument to demonstrate that an institution is accommodating student interests and abilities in compliance with Part Three. After careful review, OCR has determined that the 2005 Additional Clarification and the User’s Guide are inconsistent with the nondiscriminatory methods of assessment set forth in the 1979 Policy Interpretation and the 1996 Clarification and do not provide the appropriate and necessary clarity regarding nondiscriminatory assessment methods, including surveys, under Part Three. Accordingly, the Department is withdrawing the 2005 Additional Clarification and User’s Guide, including the model survey. All other Department policies on Part Three remain in effect and provide the applicable standards for evaluating Part Three compliance.

Given the resource limitations faced by institutions throughout the nation and the effect on institutions’ athletics programs, I recognize the importance of assisting institutions in developing their own assessment methods that retain the flexibility to meet their unique circumstances, but are consistent with the nondiscrimination requirements of the Title IX regulation. Therefore, this Dear Colleague letter reaffirms, and provides additional clarification

7 44 Fed. Reg.71413 (1979). The 1979 Policy Interpretation was published by the former Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and was adopted by the Department of Education when it was established in 1980.

8 Although the 1979 Policy Interpretation is designed for intercollegiate athletics, its general principles, and those of this letter, often will apply to interscholastic, club, and intramural athletic programs. 44 Fed. Reg. at 71413. Furthermore, the Title IX regulation requires institutions to provide equal athletic opportunities in intercollegiate, interscholastic, club, and intramural athletics. 34 C.F.R. § 106.41(c).

9 As discussed in the 1979 Policy Interpretation, OCR also considers the quality of competitive opportunities offered to members of both sexes in determining whether an institution effectively accommodates the athletic interests and abilities of its students. 44 Fed. Reg. at 71418.

10 OCR’s “Further Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Guidance Regarding Title IX Compliance,” which was issued as a Dear Colleague letter on July 11, 2003, also reincorporated the 1996 Clarification’s broad range of specific factors and illustrative examples.

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Last Modified: 01/10/2020