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Dear Colleague Letter


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on, the multiple indicators discussed in the 1996 Clarification that guide OCR’s analysis of whether institutions are in compliance with Part Three, as well as the nondiscriminatory implementation of a survey as one assessment technique.

The Three-Part Test

As discussed above, OCR uses the three-part test to determine whether an institution is providing nondiscriminatory athletic participation opportunities in compliance with the Title IX regulation. The test provides the following three compliance options:

  1. Whether intercollegiate level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments; or

  2. Where the members of one sex have been and are underrepresented among intercollegiate athletes, whether the institution can show a history and continuing practice of program expansion which is demonstrably responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the members of that sex; or

  3. Where the members of one sex are underrepresented among intercollegiate athletes, and the institution cannot show a history and continuing practice of program expansion, as described above, whether it can be demonstrated that the interests and abilities of the members of that sex have been fully and effectively accommodated by the present program.11

The three-part test is intended to allow institutions to maintain flexibility and control over their athletic programs consistent with Title IX’s nondiscrimination requirements. As stated in the 1996 Clarification, “[T]he three-part test furnishes an institution with three individual avenues to choose from when determining how it will provide individuals of each sex with nondiscriminatory opportunities to participate in intercollegiate athletics. If an institution has met any part of the three-part test, OCR will determine that the institution is meeting this requirement.”

Part Three of the Three-Part Test — Fully and Effectively Accommodating the Interests and Abilities of the Underrepresented Sex

This letter focuses on Part Three — whether an institution is fully and effectively accommodating the athletic interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex. As the 1996 Clarification indicates, while disproportionately high athletic participation rates by an institution's students of the overrepresented sex (as compared to their enrollment rates) may indicate that an institution is not providing equal athletic opportunities to its students of the underrepresented sex, an institution can satisfy Part Three if it can show that the underrepresented sex is not being denied opportunities, i.e., that the interests and abilities of

11 44 Fed. Reg. at 71418.

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Last Modified: 01/10/2020