“There is an atmosphere of academia that surrounds the school,” McCain said. “It is very different from all the other university-system schools, and I’ve been to all 17.”
The strong integration of athletics at UNC-A also plays a role in the graduation rate, he said.
But McCain said this is not true at most other universities.
“I think most other schools could certainly improve,” he said.
Bruce Mallette, senior associate vice president for academic and student affairs for the university system, said the small size of the campus along with the fact that most students live on campus were factors in the high graduation rate.
“I think the nature of what UNC-Asheville is as an institution correlates with student athlete success,” Mallette said.
And the high graduation rate is expected to continue with the university actively working toward the goal, said Edward Katz, associate provost and dean for university programs at UNC-A.
“We recruit very carefully,” he said. “The primary emphasis is on a quality academic experience.”
Most student athletes at UNC-A play a sport all four years, which makes them more likely to graduate, Katz said.
Janet Cone, athletics director at UNC-A, said the university takes a personal approach with student athletes and follows up with them after they finish their eligibility at UNC-A.
“We’ve had a few of our student athletes who have been out a few years come back to graduate,” she said.
The athletic department and the university work with student athletes who need another semester or more to graduate, she said.
“We encourage student athletes to finish strong,” Cone said.
She said there is a high correlation between competing at a collegiate level for four years and graduating. And she credits UNC-A’s faculty and staff for student athletes’ success at graduating.
“We are all trying to improve graduation rates,” Cone said. “We’re trying to recruit students first and athletes second.”
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