Higher graduation rates are expected

Kristin Gustafson

Despite low student-athlete graduation rates, McKinley Boston is optimistic that the rates will rise as recent improvements in the athletics program take effect.
Boston, the vice president of student development and athletics, outlined his rationale before the regents’ Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee on Thursday.
For classes entering the University in 1992-93, 49 percent of the entire student body graduated within six years. More than half of male student-athletes and more than two- thirds of female student-athletes graduated during this period.
While the most recent six-year student-athlete graduation rates are low, Boston said the rates were based more on the types of student-athletes entering the University six years ago than the University’s program.
In recent years the incoming classes have improved and graduation is more encouraged by officials, which should be reflected in future student-athlete graduation rates, Boston said.
Boston said that prior to 1994, the University viewed itself as an urban school with different priorities.
Changes initiated during Nils Hasselmo’s presidency changed University priorities to admitting only students with reasonable chances of graduating.
“We are looking at old data,” Boston said. “As we move forward, you are going to see higher graduation rates for our students and our student-athletes.”
Boston credited enhancement programs for academically at-risk athletic students — programs which offer structured and supervised study and learning assistance — as one source for his optimism.
This program, primarily serving first-year students, was initiated in 1992, so survey results wouldn’t yet reflect the impact of programs like these, Boston said.
Although the University ranks ninth out of the 11 Big Ten schools with a 52 percent graduation rate in 1998, additional factors need to be considered, said Regent William Hogan II, the chairman of the Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee.
“We are more urban than some of these other institutions,” Hogan said. “We get a little more of stepping in and stepping out” because of urban issues such as housing and employment, Hogan said.
Comparing the University of Minnesota to Ohio State — the most similar institution in the Big Ten — provides a fairer basis for comparison, Boston said. Graduation rates at Ohio State are similar to the University of Minnesota’s.
“Retention rates of student-athletes and students in general continue to be high,” Boston said.
But Boston acknowledged the University has a long way to go.

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.