Watchdog report calls for Education Department to improve Title IX enforcement efforts

Women’s sports are more popular than ever.

This past spring, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament championship game peaked at 24 million viewers on ESPN and ABC combined.

But when it comes to equality on the court, women college athletes can be left on the sidelines.

“Right now, in total, women are missing $1.1 billion in college scholarships, which is just it’s a loss for women,” said Nancy Hogshead, CEO of Champion Women.

Nancy Hogshead runs the nonprofit Champion Women which provides legal advocacy for girls and women in sports. This includes helping them file Title IX complaints.

Under Title IX, schools receiving federal funding are required to provide students with equal opportunities to participate in sports and get athletic scholarships.

But a new Government Accountability Office watchdog report shows despite higher enrollment rates than men, the overall rate of women playing sports was 14 percentage points lower during the 2021-2022 school year. The report shows about 40 percent of colleges also offered the same or fewer varsity sports for women during that same academic year.

“Participating in sports is a game changer for somebody’s life,” said Hogshead. “So when you’re denying them that you’re really denying them a different future.”

The Department of Education investigates Title IX complaints.

But this report also reveals the agency didn’t have timely communication with universities. Sometimes it took more than a year to review and approve a college’s plan for addressing compliance issues. But in other cases, researchers say there wouldn’t be communications for five years or more!

As of last fall, the Education Department changed how quickly it responds to colleges. They say they’ll now reply within 90 days of receiving a report. In response to some of the report’s recommendations, the agency will also require staff to record due dates in its system for Title IX athletic cases.

Moving forward, Hogshead also believes colleges should proactively report their Title IX efforts to the federal government.

“Have them affirmatively explain every year explain how they’re providing equal opportunities, scholarship dollars and that they’re treating the women the same way. And if they even have like a form that they can check off,” said Hogshead.

Last spring, the Department of Education proposed a new rule for athletic eligibility under Title IX which would provide more clarity for students, parents, and coaches.

“The Department’s rulemaking process is still ongoing for a Title IX regulation related to athletics. The Department proposed amendments to its athletics regulations in April 2023 and received over 150,000 public comments, which by law must be carefully considered. We do not have information to share today on a timeline,” said an Education Department Spokesperson.

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