The NCAA is investigating 20 university athletics programs for academic fraud, according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Eighteen of the 20 are from Division I, the NCAA's top tier and one that contains the most prominent college athletic programs in the country. The remaining two programs under investigation are from Division II and Division III. The report did not list the schools by name.  

The total represents an upward revision of a statement that Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA’s vice president of enforcement, made at the NCAA’s annual member convention last month, when he said college athletics’ governing body was investigating 12 to 15 schools. There, Duncan called cheating and academic fraud across college athletics an epidemic.  

“It affects the integrity of the game,” said Katherine Sulentic, the NCAA’s associate director for enforcement. “But more importantly, it affects the student-athlete’s education. It affects the quality of their degree.”

Last year, the NCAA prosecuted 22 major violations of academic misconduct, the highest total in three years. It also handled 5,000 more minor, or secondary violations, the most it has ever recorded. The organization currently employs 60 people on its enforcement team, a number that it says will grow in the near future.

The NCAA instituted tougher academic eligibility standards for its Division I athletes back in 2012. In the Chronicle's report, Sulentic and her boss, Jonathan Duncan, said the tougher standards were among the factors contributing to an uptick in cheating.

In recent months, the world of college sports has been beset with academic scandals. Last October, the University of North Carolina was roiled by an independent investigation that found the school had improperly aided thousands of student-athletes by allowing them to take independent studies with a secretary who worked in the department of African and Afro-American studies.

Then, in late December, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an investigation exposing how one coach helped thousands of student athletes around the country cheat on courses they were taking online.

Though the number of violations has remained high since  NCAA has moved ponderously in the direction of a response. Roderick McDavis, the president of Ohio University and the chair of the Division I Committee on Academics, said his committee had not yet drafted any legislation that might govern the problem.   

“I think that we’ll have that conversation going forward,” Mr. Davis said. “Trying to develop some legislation that we can put forward that focuses on academic misconduct is the first large area that our committee on academics is going to focus on.”