Do student-athletes get a good education?

Student-athletes are celebrated on the field and forgotten in the classroom. Despite increased academic support and NCAA legislation to improve graduation rates, student-athletes graduate at a much lower rate than their classmates.

The NCAA has tried to address the problem

The NCAA instituted Academic Progress Rate (APR) legislation in 2004 which monitors student-athletes on a year-by-year basis, ensuring that they are on track to graduate. Schools face penalties and sanctions, like scholarship restrictions, postseason bans and even restricted membership status, for non-compliance.

The APR legislation has successfully increased graduation rates, but many student-athletes, especially football and men’s basketball players, still struggle to complete their education.

Student-athletes fall behind their peers

Division I college football players, who make the by far the most money for their schools, have a graduation rate 18 percent less than non-athletes, according to the University of South Carolina’s Collegiate Sports Research Institute. The numbers are even worse for African American student-athletes, as 24 percent fewer black football players graduate.

If so many student-athletes fail to graduate, how are they able to maintain their eligibility?

Academic fraud is used to keep student-athletes eligible

On college campuses, student-athletes are provided with dedicated academic support as well as extensive tutoring. However, these programs are more effective for keeping student-athletes eligible rather than keeping them on track to graduate. Facing immense pressure to maintain eligibility, many tutors are incentivized to cheat.

A few years back, The University of North Carolina was exposed for systematic academic fraud. In order to keep football and men’s basketball players, who lacked basic reading and writing skills, eligible, UNC created fake classes with guaranteed good grades.

The UNC scandal highlights the biggest issue facing student-athletes: many of them do not have the academic background to succeed at selective colleges like UNC

Non-degree programs for top student-athletes?

Many of the premier football and basketball college programs are also known for their academic excellence. Since most top student-athletes would not be admitted to these schools based on their grades alone, is it time to offer non-degree programs for top student-athletes?

Non-degree programs would put an end to the era of the student-athlete and change college sports forever. If a college athletes are no longer required to attended classes, they become professionals, not amateurs.

The financial windfalls afforded universities through athletics have changed the expectations for student-athletes. Academics have taken a backseat to athletics and the outcome of games are now way more important than degrees.

It’s time for the NCAA and its universities to step up and make it their mission to help their most valuable assets, student-athletes, graduate.


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