How local athletes stack up in the classroom


National graduation rates for student-athletes are up and Ivy League schools top the list, with BYU ranking 223rd and Utah Valley University last out of 339 schools in the nation.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s 2011 Graduation Rates Report includes information on the most recent graduation class of student-athletes who entered school in 2004 and graduate within six years.

[media-credit name=”Sarah Strobel” align=”alignright” width=”184″][/media-credit]
Photo by Sarah Strobel The BYU women’s volleyball team has a 91 percent graduation rate.
“These NCAA ratings help us keep tabs on where we rank and we want to strive to keep our graduates’ rates up,” said Chad Gwilliam, BYU assistant athletic director for compliance.

The report includes information on student-athletes who received any aid: grant, scholarship, tuition waiver or any other assistance from the college. It tracks athletes in football, basketball, baseball, swimming, tennis, volleyball and all other NCAA sports.

“The whole reason they have college is so you can get a higher education and college sports is just one way to pay for our education,” said Nicole Warner, BYU women’s volleyball player who is majoring in exercise science. “It doesn’t matter if it’s through your athletic abilities or academic abilities. BYU stresses the student comes before the athlete and if I’m not eligible academically then I can never play.”

BYU’s graduation rate for all students attending the university comes to 78 percent, with its student-athletes ranking at 63 percent.
UVU director of compliance Mark Tschaggeny explained why the school’s ratings aren’t as high as they hoped.

He said the current Graduate Success Rate statistics reflect the 2004-05 school year, which was UVU’s second year of NCAA Division I athletics. UVU Athletics achieved full Division I status in 2009, and the NCAA Academic Progress Rate provides a more updated view of an institution’s academic achievement.

At that time, we were adapting to the athletic and academic change of participating at the NCAA Division I level,” UVU Athletics Department said in a statement. “While UVU’s 2004-2005 GSR does not meet the expectation the university has for the student-athletes, we do not feel it’s an accurate reflection of the current academic environment at UVU.”

At BYU, men’s basketball and women’s tennis scored the highest with a 100 percent graduation success rate, while football scored the lowest with 57 percent. The rest of the BYU athletics showed high rates, with women’s volleyball at 91 percent and women’s swimming and men’s tennis at 86 percent.

“It takes a lot of discipline, which requires self-control and extra effort on our part if we want to be good athletes and students,” said scholar, athlete and swimmer Andrew Rutherford from Alpharetta, Ga.

Student-athletes recognize other players for their dedication to both academics and sports. Warner commends diver Brandon Watson from Riverton who focuses hard in his major, but sets aside time to excel in his sport so he can have the chance of going to the Olympics.

Other sports at BYU showed mixed success ratings in comparison to national ratings.

BYU baseball players graduate with a 63 percent rate, ahead of the national rate of 20 percent, while BYU men’s volleyball is behind the 75 percent national graduate success rate with only 63 percent.

“It’s hard because people aren’t holding banners when you walk out of the Testing Center saying, ‘Congratulations, you got an A on your test,’ but they’re holding up all kinds of banners at your home games,” Warner said.

The BYU Athletic Department said BYU tries to comply with NCAA requirements in offering extra resources for academic help both in the athletics department and in regular campus programs. BYU has tutors and the student athletic academic center available to help student-athletes further.

The counselors at the campus academic center work with the athletic department to put out grade reports and get feedback from the student-athletes’ professors.

“Our coaches encourage academics when they start recruiting, long before they get here,” Gwilliam said. “Some coaches require study hall hours and other coaches require players to sit out a practice to take care of academics.”

The Barnard College at Columbia University and Brown University ranked the highest with 100 percent graduation success rate. Dartmouth College, American University, Colgate University and the University of Notre Dame were right behind with 99 percent. The lowest-ranked schools include Chicago State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Texas Southern University and Savannah State University, all having under 50 percent graduation success rates.

Other universities in Utah hit both high and low ratings. Utah State University and University of Utah’s graduation success rates were higher than BYU’s 76 percent with 84 and 79 percent, respectively. Utah Valley University’s 33 percent is the lowest of the four.

“We want to continue on the path we’re on right now in encouraging students to graduate and we try to emphasize academics to the incoming students,” Gwilliam said. “Our ultimate goal is having anyone who joins us walk away with a degree.”

Graduation rates are affected by students working part time and needing more than six years to graduate, transferring to a different college, leaving school for a block of time for work or travel or being dismissed for academic deficiencies.

However, the Graduation Success Rate does not include students who die, become permanently disabled or leave school to join the armed forces, foreign services or religious missions.

The 2011 NCAA Graduation Rates Report earned its highest marks for graduation from more than 500 colleges and universities with more than eight of every 10 student-athletes earning college degrees within six years.

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