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October 24, 2013

CSU athletes show strong graduation success rates

By John Cuturic

The NCAA released graduation success rate data for student athletes who entered school from 2003 to 2006, and Cleveland State University athletes made a strong showing overall.

The graduation success rate is a metric of all student athletes who either receive athletic scholarships or were actively recruited by a coach. It counts the number of student athletes who graduate within six years, or transfer to another school in good academic standing.

Four Cleveland State teams had 100 percent graduation success rates -- men’s and women’s golf, women’s track, and women’s volleyball. Most of Cleveland State’s teams scored higher than the national average, 82 percent.

Cleveland State’s athletic director John Parry said that coaches work hard to find recruits who are good students. Cleveland State’s athletic department can’t afford to give out many full-ride scholarships, so they look for recruits who can also get merit-based scholarships from the university.

“One of the challenges is to find players who are strong enough academically, and who also can play,” Parry said. “You can’t separate them. You can’t say ‘This is a great player. He doesn’t know where the class is, but he’s a great player,’ or, ‘This is a great student, but he can’t dribble.’

Parry also said that the athletics advisors aim to do what the department calls “intrusive advising.” Mark Gefert, an academic advisor with the department, said that athletic advisors have complete control over student-athletes’ academic records.

“We put a flag on student accounts,” Gefert said. “They have to see an advisor to register or add-drop [add or drop a class].”

He said that the athletic advisors have to keep student-athletes on track to graduate. They aim for students to graduate in four or five years.

“As a student-athlete, you have to be on track to graduate, or you can’t compete,” Gefert said.

He said that student-athletes can be in practice for as much as 20 hours in a week, the NCAA maximum amount of practice time. Gefert said that if students will spend 20 hours a week getting better at their sport, they should spend at least 20 hours studying, too.

“Whenever I talk to recruits, the biggest thing I tell them is to not underestimate the amount of work it’s going to take to be successful,” he said.

Parry said that short of students leaving to pursue professional careers, the athletic department’s goal is to have 100 percent graduation success rates across the board.

Maureen Forinash, a student-athlete on the women’s fencing team, will graduate next fall with a degree in Special Education. Forinash said that being a student athlete has helped her on the way to graduation.

“It’s helped me to prioritize my time better. I don’t procrastinate as much, because I don’t have time to,” Forinash said. “I have to get things done when I have the time.”

Some of Cleveland State’s teams fell below the national average. Most notably, the women’s fencing and women’s soccer teams had graduation success rates of 50 percent and 69 percent respectively.

Christine Moeller, associate director of athletics for student affairs, said that because graduation success rate only counts students with athletic scholarships or who were actively recruited, only four athletes from the women’s fencing team went into that number, skewing the results.

Moeller said that it’s happened with men’s fencing and tennis in the past. Two of the women’s fencing students graduated, and the other two might have dropped to being part-time students or transferred universities with a low GPA.

As for the women’s soccer team, Moeller said that it’s a very young program, and that that number also could have gotten slightly skewed. She predicted that the number would go up the next time the NCAA reported success rates.

Moeller said that Cleveland State has performed very well in the NCAA’s measure of academic progress, the academic progress rate (APR). She said that because of that, we should expect graduation success rates to go up in the future.

“We’re pretty happy with our GSR [graduation success rates],” Moeller said. “But more, we’re very proud of our APR, and they go hand in hand.”