The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday June 2nd

Athlete success rate above NCAA average

The NCAA revealed last Thursday that UNC’s Graduation Success Rate for student-athletes is 86 percent — 4 percent more than the national average.

Steve Kirschner, senior associate athletic director for communications, said in a press release that these figures are based on the entering classes from 2003-04 to 2006-07.

The GSR, which measures the proportion of student-athletes that graduate, includes transfer students and athletes who graduate within six years in good academic standing.

Michelle Brown, director of the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes, said the numbers are still worth celebrating even though they are from past years.

“The student athletes are doing really well,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment on their part.”

Ten varsity UNC teams scored 100 percent, including men and women’s fencing, field hockey, women’s golf, gymnastics, rowing, women’s swimming and diving, men and women’s tennis and volleyball, according to the press release.

Brown said her program considers the NCAA’s GSR and Academic Progress Rates to gauge how students are doing and see how they can improve student-athlete success.

This year, the ASPSA is initiating a new structure that encourages individualized support for athletes as well as examining its study hall and tutoring programs, she said. Among the new initiatives, Brown said she’s excited by the work of the Student Athlete Academic Initiative Working Group, a new program led by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean.

The nine-member working group includes Dean and Brown, as well as Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham and three UNC professors.

While the group’s focus is on success at each stage of a student athlete’s academic career — admission, advising, support and graduation — Dean said the group is also trying to tailor a curriculum that is specific to individual students.

Brown emphasized the importance of an individual approach to student support, which she said could account for the improved GSR.

“We definitely consider the individual, where the individual is and how we can help them move forward to help accomplish their goals,” she said.

But some are critical of solely using the GSR to measure the academic success of student athletes.

Mary Willingham, who works for the UNC Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling, said in an email that the label “Graduation Success Rate” is a little misleading.

The GSR includes athletes who transfer out of UNC, Willingham said. She also said athletes were evaluated by a different eligibility system from 2003 to 2007, which she said might not have been as legitimate as newer systems in place.

Willingham also noted the importance of acknowledging the different GSRs among profit sports — football and men’s basketball — and expenditure sports, such as field hockey and fencing.

“The NCAA does a great job of hiding behind the expenditure sports with regards to GSR, and just about everything else with regards to propaganda,” Willingham said in an email.

But Dean said the GSR is useful because it’s comparable among other schools.

“Either way, we’re happy that it’s better than it used to be, but no one is really satisfied with it,” Dean said.

Willingham said UNC advisors should meet students where they are and should bring them along academically so they can achieve real academic success.

Shesaid she was also in favor of tracking student-athletes’ post-graduation success.

Dean said a post-graduation evaluation would be helpful, but said his working group hasn’t gotten to that stage.

“We’re proud of what we’re doing here,” he said. “We have tremendous commitment to making UNC of the highest quality in both academics and athletics.”

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