|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, November 1, 2004
San Luis Obispo Tribune 11-1-04
Cal Poly student-athletes fall back
Cal Poly student-athletes on athletic scholarships graduated last year at a rate below both the national average and the rate of their classmates on campus, according to a national study.
The numbers were reversed the year before, however, and have swung back and forth for at least the past five years.
Last year, the graduation rate was 55 percent among the university's student-athletes on athletic scholarships who began as freshmen in 1997. That compares to 65 percent for all Cal Poly students in the same class.
Nationally, 62 percent of student-athletes who began as freshmen in 1997 graduated; the rate was 60 percent nationally for all students.
The numbers were reversed in 2002, with graduation rates of 68 percent for Cal Poly's student-athletes and 64 percent for all students at the university, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which released its study last week.
Cal Poly administrators do not believe that the rates indicate a significant problem or specific need. Rather, they say that a few student-athletes dropping out or transferring to another school are enough to skew the rates.
"It isn't necessarily an academic issue at all," said W. David Conn, Cal Poly's vice provost for Academic Programs and Undergraduate Education.
Interim Athletic Director Alison Cone agreed.
"I'm not sure there's great cause for concern with that particular number," she said, "especially since our exhausted eligibility rate is so high."
Exhausted eligibility indicates the percentage of student-athletes who used all four years of their athletics eligibility at the same university and who graduated within a 10-year period.
At Cal Poly, that figure is around 90 percent -- and for the past five years has consistently been well above the national average, which has been in the 80s.
"Some of our athletes may be taking a little longer to graduate," Cone said.
Student-athletes have an academic adviser and opportunities for tutoring, Cone said, just like every student at Cal Poly.
While she and Conn look at the NCAA numbers every year, it has not spurred the creation of new programs or initiatives.
"This only measures whether they finished here or not," Conn said.
Women athletes and students have higher graduation rates nationally and at Cal Poly than their male peers. Cone said she could not explain the gender difference.
Cal Poly had 82 freshmen student-athletes on athletic scholarships in 1994, when the football began competing in Division I-AA. That was 30 more than the school had in the freshman class four years earlier.
The longer the university has been in Division I-AA, Cone said, the number and value of its athletic scholarships has increased. She hopes that contributes over time to rising graduation rates by reducing costs to students.
Compared to other California state universities with Division I football teams, Cal Poly's rates are higher. The graduation rate is around 40 percent for student-athletes and all students at Cal State Fresno (Division I-A) and Cal State Sacramento (Division I-AA).
UC Santa Barbara has higher graduation rates among athletes than Cal Poly. It, too, has fluctuated from a low of 63 percent in 1999 to a high of 83 percent the next year.
No specific team has a lower-than-average rate at Cal Poly, Cone said.
The three main men's programs -- football, basketball and baseball -- consistently average higher graduation rates than the total for all student-athletes on athletic scholarships.
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