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Iowa’s Black Athletes Lag Behind in Graduation Rates

Iowa’s Black Athletes Lag Behind in Graduation RatesDES MOINES, Iowa

Black athletes at three of Iowa’s largest colleges graduated at rates far below the national average for Division I schools, The Des Moines Register reported.

Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa reported that 33 percent of Black athletes at the schools graduated within six years. Drake University reported a graduation rate of 25 percent, according to the Des Moines Sunday Register.

The national average, according to the 2004 National Collegiate Athletic Association report, is 49 percent.

“There are a number of factors involved, but we definitely are working hard to improve our academic retention and success rates,” said Donald Reed, assistant athletic director for academic affairs at Iowa State.

The report showed that officials at the three universities reported the lowest graduation rates for Black athletes in five years.

The University of Iowa had a graduation rate of 50 percent, but that was down eight percentage points from 2003 and down 19 points from 2001, according to the report, issued last month.

The report shows that the overall graduation rates for all athletes, Whites and minorities, at the four schools ranged from a low of 59 percent at Iowa State to a high of 69 percent at Iowa. Drake reported a 65 percent overall graduation rate, while Northern Iowa finished at 63 percent.

Officials at the schools said the report shows a need for improvement.

“I’ve become increasingly concerned about this and, in fact, have been harping on this some,” said Fred Mims, an associate athletic director at Iowa.

“I know part of this is the reporting methodology, but I also know we have to start to explore better ways to make sure our minority athletes have success in the classroom and get their degrees.”

Officials at all four Iowa schools said the reporting mechanism required by federal law is a key factor in the decline, rather than an indication of weakening academic support or effort by Black athletes.

For example, athletes who transfer to another school or drop out to play professionally, even though they are in good academic standing, are still counted against a school’s graduation rate, the officials said.

“There is a problem within the methodology in that a very small number of transfers can skew the numbers to look more negative than they really are,” said Dave Blank, Drake’s athletic director. “For us, one athlete who transfers and is in good standing can make us drop substantially.”

Blank also said the graduation problems being reported now by the NCAA actually occurred during the 1990s. In 2002, Drake moved the responsibility for academic services for athletes from the athletic department to the provost’s office.

Iowa State and Iowa spend more than $1 million annually for academic counseling, planning and tutoring for athletes. In addition, scholarship athletes receive preference in scheduling classes.

Last year, Iowa opened a new $4.6 million learning center for athletes. Iowa State is now raising money to build a $6 million learning center for its athletes.

NCAA officials are now collecting academic progress and graduation data to gauge each school’s performance in academic retention and success. Officials at the Iowa schools said they aren’t overly concerned about the rankings they will receive.

“I am confident that our retention and success rate will meet the standards,” said Reed, of Iowa State.

The Associated Press

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