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DIII presidents review graduation-rate data

By Gary Brown

The Division III Presidents Council at its meeting on Tuesday reviewed a third year of data from a voluntary academic reporting program showing that student-athletes in general graduate at rates higher than their student-body counterparts.

The presidents also for the first time looked at how the data reflect varying levels of success within sports and demographics.

The third year of voluntary reporting produced data from 128 schools on the entering class of 2005 showing student-athlete graduation rates of 68 percent compared to 62 percent for the student body at those schools. The data also showed an Academic Success Rate (an NCAA-produced calculation that, unlike the federal rate, takes transfers into account) of 88 percent for student-athletes (83 percent for men and 94 percent for women). Those ASRs have been consistent among the three years of the voluntary reporting program in Division III.

But a more targeted review of the third year of data revealed a couple of concerns. One was in football, where student-athletes at the 128 reporting schools posted a federal graduation rate of 51 percent, compared with the 62 percent federal rate from the student body at those schools. The football student-athletes’ ASR was 76 percent, but even that was 4 percentage points lower than the next-lowest men’s sport (wrestling) in the cohort.

Men’s basketball and baseball student-athletes in the 2005 cohort also posted federal rates below their corresponding student-body rates, though the ASRs for those sports were 82 percent and 84 percent, respectively.

Basketball was the lowest-performing women’s sport, though its 69 percent federal rate was well above the student-body rate. All of the ASRs for the women’s sports tracked in the 2005 cohort were at least 92 percent.

The presidents also reviewed data for the entering class of 2005 showing that African-American student-athletes posted a federal graduation rate of 42 percent, 5 points below that of African-American students at the reporting schools.

The Council authorized the academic reporting effort initially as a pilot in 2009. The two-year program produced samples representative enough of the division as a whole to prompt the Council, based on membership feedback, to maintain the program in its third year as voluntary rather than require an annual division-wide reporting structure going forward.

Over the two years of the pilot and the single year of continued voluntary reporting, 173 schools have submitted data, 79 of which submitted data in each of the three years. Forty-nine schools submitted data in two of the three years, while another 16 submitted data for the first time this year.

“Because the academic reporting program is still voluntary, it will take some time to accumulate the kind of data necessary to make sweeping judgments,” said Council chair Jim Schmotter of Western Connecticut State. “Additional data, over time, will allow the Council to explore in more detail potential issues related to specific sports or demographic groups.”

At their meeting on Tuesday, Council members did discuss ways in which more schools could be encouraged to report academic data annually. Some recommended outreach to presidents directly. Others thought a customized report for the participating schools would not only help to those schools but also show other institutions how comparing their own data to a more national cohort could be beneficial. Members asked staff to consider distributing that kind of information at the Convention.

“Anything we can do to increase the data pool would be helpful, since a larger cohort obviously would help us in any meaningful review,” Schmotter said. “And there’s a benefit for individual schools as well. These are data that presidents can use to their advantage.”