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More African American student-athletes are graduating from college, and they are graduating at a higher rate than nonathletes, according to a study released earlier this year by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.
The study, Significant Progress for African-American Students, examines data compiled by the federal government and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. According to federal data, the graduation rate of African American athletes increased from 35% for those entering college in 1984 — the first class for which the data was compiled — to 52% for those who started college in 1998. That is nine percentage points higher than the graduation rate of the entire African American student body.
According to the NCAA, however, the graduation rate of African American student-athletes jumped even higher — to 59% — over the same time period. Why the difference? Federal graduation rates do not present an accurate snapshot of the colleges and universities polled, according to the report. For example, a student-athlete in good academic standing who transfers to another university and graduates is considered a nongraduate of the original school. Even junior college graduates who then enroll in four-year schools and graduate are counted as nongraduates. The NCAA takes such factors into account, hence the higher rate.
“Colleges are adding more academic and life skills personnel to assist the student-athlete,” says Richard Lapchick, president and CEO of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports and author of the study. These programs open up other career opportunities to athletes after graduation, Lapchick adds. “An African American student has a better chance of becoming a doctor or attorney than an NBA or NFL player. We need to do better at letting them know that.”