Black Male Student-Athlete Graduation Rate Lags Behind

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by Diverse Staff

Black male student-athletes are graduating at a rate that substantially lags behind the average overall undergraduate rate of athletes, according to a four-year study of athletes and racial inequities in college sports by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.

The study of 76 colleges and universities that comprise six major sports conferences showed that, on average, 50.2 percent of Black male student-athletes graduated within six years. The overall rate, regardless of race, is 72.8 percent.

“While the graduation disparities were not surprising, what was surprising was the astounding pervasiveness and depth of the disparities, as well as the fact that institutional leaders, the NCAA and athletics conference commissioners have not done more in response to them,” said Dr. Shaun R. Harper, the report’s lead author. “Research has yielded clear strategies for Black male student-athlete success ― however, there needs to be the institutional will to implement these simple, and often low-cost, solutions ― as well as accountability from the media and the athletes themselves.”

The monitored schools are from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC. These conferences regularly produce the winners of the NCAA’s Division I football and basketball championships and rake in millions annually in revenue from their athletic programs. Black men were 2.8 percent of full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students, but 57.1 percent of football teams and 64.3 percent of basketball teams during the period of the study (2007-2010).

Sunday, the NCAA announced that the University of Notre Dame would face the University of Alabama for the Bowl Championship Series national football title.

Notre Dame, ranked No.1 in the nation in football, can also boast of being No.2 in terms of the graduation rate (81 percent) of its Black male student-athletes, according to the Penn report. Alabama, ranked No. 2 in football and Notre Dame’s title game opponent, graduated 56 percent of its Black male student-athletes.

Northwestern University is the top-ranked school in the Penn report at 83 percent. Villanova University and Penn State University tied for third at 78 percent.

“The number-one goal we have for every student-athlete is a Northwestern degree, and we’re pleased that the data reflects our success in accomplishing that,” said University Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips. “We’re here to provide a world-class experience ― academically, athletically and socially ― for our student-athletes while they’re on campus, and prepare each of them for life beyond graduation.”

Iowa State had the lowest graduation rate of Black male student-athletes at 30 percent.

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