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Black Male Athlete's Graduation Disparities


On the heels of yesterday’s college football Bowl Championship Series rankings, Penn Graduate School of Education’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education has announced the results of its four-year study of athletes and racial inequities in college sports – and ranked the winners and losers in the game of graduating Black male student-athletes successfully. The report also outlines proven game-changing strategies for stakeholders ranging from the NCAA to journalists to the athletes themselves.

“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 Shaun R. Harper, Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education who is 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 undeniable champion institution was Northwestern University, with an impressive graduation rate of 83% for its Black male student-athletes -- well above the average undergraduate rate for all schools studied, regardless of race, of 72.8%. In second place was the University of Notre Dame at 81%, a school which prides itself on its high student-athlete graduation rates, followed by a tie for third between Villanova University and Penn State University at 78%. On average, 50.2% of Black male student-athletes graduated within six years.

"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."

The data were gathered from 76 colleges and universities that comprise six major sports conferences: the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC. These conferences routinely win NCAA Division I football and men’s basketball championships, with millions at stake for their institutions. The data followed cohorts from 2007-2010 and demonstrated, with only a few exceptions, that most of the universities studied have weak graduation rates for their Black male student-athletes, by almost any measure.

Topping the list of the “10 Universities with Lowest Black Male Student-Athlete Graduation Rates” is Iowa State University, with a meager 30% of their Black student-athletes graduating. University of South Florida, University of Arizona and University of Arkansas were close behind with a 31% graduation rate. The report also addresses universities that have a wildly disproportionate number of Black male student-athletes. For example, at Marquette University, they were overrepresented by a stunning 77.0%.

Information on data-gathering and detailed rankings can be found at www.gse.upenn.edu/equity/sports.

The report notes that problems as pervasive as the underrepresentation of Black men in the undergraduate student population at predominantly white colleges and universities, their overrepresentation on revenue-generating NCAA Division I sports teams, and their comparatively lower six-year graduation rates warrant a multidimensional response from various stakeholders. Included are concrete strategies and recommendations for five groups: the NCAA and Sports Conference commissioners; college and university leaders; coaches and athletic departments; journalists and sports media, and Black male student-athletes and their families. Downloadable Strategy Sheets will be available for each group by January 1, 2013.