University athletes’ graduation rates show gender gap

Patrick Hayes

Graduation rates for University student athletes are improving, but at a far greater rate for female athletes than male, according to a report presented to the Board of Regents on Thursday.
The six-year graduation rate for men’s athletics increased from 50 percent in 1996 to 55 percent in June 1999, while women’s athletics increased from 72 percent to 81 percent during the same period, according to the data.
The graduation rate for all University students remained steady at an average of 51 percent during that time.
Overall, men’s athletics had a 49 percent average graduation rate during the three-year period. The average rate for women’s athletics was 71 percent.
Grade point averages for women’s athletics exceeded both University students and men’s athletics. For example, by fall 1999 women athletes had approximately a 3.1 GPA, compared to the general student body average, which was almost 3.0. Male athletes averaged little more than a 2.7 GPA.
“We’re proud that our student athletes take great pride in their academics,” said Chris Voelz, women’s athletics director. “We are pleased and proud of what our women have done.”
Interim Men’s Athletics Director Tom Moe said he expected better results for the male athletes.
“The raw numbers are not what I hoped for or expected,” Moe said.
He stressed the need to build on the men’s athletics programs and make sure coaches play an active role in each student athlete’s life.
“The better the program, the higher quality the student athlete will be,” Moe added.
Of the 10 men’s athletics programs, half have graduation rates below the average University student rate, with basketball at the bottom at 25 percent.
However, the yearly data required by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, presented to the regents, can be misleading, said Craig Swan, executive vice president for undergraduate education. The guidelines for the data limit the number of athletes included in the report.
The report, which accounts for 55 percent of student athletes, excludes athletes who were not actively recruited and do not have full scholarships.
Swan also said the administrative structure and faculty oversight changes that have occurred during the past year can improve the tracking of student athletes’ academic progress.
In addition to increased graduation rates, more student athletes received honors awards than last year.
In 1999, 244 athletes had a 3.0 or better GPA, up 10 from last year; 150 student athletes have received Academic All-Big Ten honors, an increase of 18.

Patrick Hayes covers the Board of Regents and welcomes comments at [email protected]