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UL leads pack in graduation rate of student athletes

UL leads pack in graduation rate of student athletes

UL leads pack in graduation rate of student athletes

Editorial, the Daily Advertiser –

In 1999, the University of Louisiana faced a downward trend in graduation rates among student athletes. A National Collegiate Athletic Association report showed only 32 percent of student-athletes who entered the university in the fall of 1992 graduated within six years. The 32 percent rate was glaringly deficient in comparison to that of schools such as Auburn, with a 67 percent rate, and the University of Florida, where 64 percent of student athletes graduated during the same time period.
UL took strong, highly effective steps to improve the rate, and a report issued in 2003 showed substantial improvement, with 39 percent of student-athletes enrolling in 1995-96 graduating in five years. The four-year average graduation rate was 38 percent for athletes.

Now, there is a new report showing that the rate has climbed to an astonishing 66 percent. That is the highest rate among the state’s 13 Division I institutions, and third highest in the Sun Belt Conference. The rating is twice as high as that of the general student body.

The steady increase in the number of athletes graduating on a timely basis is a major accomplishment for UL. In the Sun Belt, only Denver and North Texas had higher rates. Among Louisiana schools, the only ones besides UL to graduate half of the enrolled athletes were Tulane, with a 65 percent rating; McNeese State, 56 percent; Northwestern State, 52 percent; and Grambling, 50 percent.
UL’s steady improvement began after the embarrassing 1999 report. The steps taken by the university could serve as guidelines for improvement at other schools.

The university began the climb by increasing academic emphasis in the Student-Athlete Center. The facilities were made better and there was an accompanying personnel increase.

Prior to 1998, there was only one full-time counselor. The increase in personnel made a major difference. Besides being able to divide up duties and focus more attention on specifics, staff members gained more time for planning.

Space also was added. By 2003, the Conference Center had gained a study lab, 25 computers with Internet access, 25 to 30 independent study booths and a room for tutoring.

Another contributor to the improved rating was implementation of higher admissions standards. The old open admissions policy put the university in an indefensible position, facilitating entry of students without proper commitment, preparation or academic foundation for college careers. The more stringent standards have positively affected the graduation rate – among athletes and all others enrolled.

Accomplishments at UL have always given us cause for pride. No accomplishment is more worthy of pride than the outstanding graduation rate of our Ragin’ Cajun athletes.

Originally published February 18, 2006