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Rates Up for Black Athletes

Study comparing 1984, 1998 Division I enrollees shows double-digit increases in graduation rates for both genders.

April 07, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

A study comparing the graduation rates of black college athletes at Division I colleges who began school in 1984 with those who enrolled in 1998 showed double-digit percentage increases among males and females.

According to the study, released Thursday by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 52% of all black athletes who began school in 1998 graduated within six years, a 17% increase over the graduation rate of black athletes who enrolled in 1984.

The increase was even more pronounced -- 18% -- among black females. The study showed that 63% of black females who began school in 1998 graduated within six years, up significantly from the 45% graduation rate among those who matriculated in 1984.

Among black males, there was a 15% increase, from the 33% graduation rate of those beginning school in 1984 to a 48% rate among those beginning in 1998.

"Certainly, it's encouraging," said Anita DeFrantz, president of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. "This confirms a bit of a feeling I have that today's [black] student-athletes are able to believe that they can be successful, and the environments at the colleges and the universities are more respectful of that concept."

Richard Lapchick, director of the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at Central Florida who conducted the study, attributed the gains primarily to increased academic support and a "welcoming factor" on predominately white campuses.

White athletes made smaller gains than their black counterparts. The study showed that 66% of all white athletes who began school in 1998 graduated within six years, a 7% increase over the graduation rate of those who matriculated in 1984.

"The only bad news in this story is that there is still a tremendous disparity between the rates for black and white students," Lapchick said. "If we're going to talk about an egalitarian society, we should have equal opportunities for people to be successful academically."

The data was compiled using federal graduation rates, which do not give credit for athletes who transferred to other schools and graduated or those who left school early to turn professional and eventually returned to their original schools to complete coursework.

Employing the NCAA's new graduation success rate, or GSR, a measurement that takes into account the factors ignored by the federal rate, the study found that 59% of all black athletes who began school in 1998 graduated within six years. There is no GSR data available for students who enrolled in 1984.

David Ridpath, executive director of the Drake Group, an academic watchdog organization, hailed the increases as a result of the NCAA's now-defunct Proposition 48, which required incoming freshmen to meet certain standardized-testing cutoffs.

But Ridpath said he worried that athletes who had been admitted in recent years via less stringent requirements might struggle to meet more rigorous eligibility standards, setting the stage for academic fraud.

"We may be now bringing people in less prepared for college, but they have to meet tougher standards," Ridpath said. "What I am pretty sure is going to happen is that we're going to see colleges and universities further watering down the curriculum to keep these kids eligible.... My worry is that schools will bend, twist and do whatever it takes."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Graduation rates

Rates for students who began school in 1998:

*--* SB S-A GSR All African Americans 43% 52% 59% Male African Americans 36% 48% 54% Female African Americans 47% 63% 73% SB: overall student body; S-A: student-athletes; GSR: NCAA's graduation success rating.

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