Athletics officials: UI student-athlete graduation rates spike


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Some university leaders are worried college athletes are getting a bad rap.

Officials said at a Presidential Committee on Athletics meeting on Thursday that the University of Iowa's athlete-graduation rate last year was 74 percent — the highest it has been in the last few years and 4 percentage points higher than that of non-athletes. Leaders attributed the jump to established rules ensuring athletes complete academic work.

Despite those numbers, committee member and history Professor Jeffrey Cox said the media often focus too much on negative stories.

"What gets lost here is a success story," Cox said.

The university has been so successful, he said, because of the strict guidelines it has in place to promote student-athletes' academic growth.

"Our goal is to make sure student athletes have the autonomy to choose a major themselves," Cox said.

Student-athletes are required to take 14 credit hours each semester to ensure their progress toward graduation, and they are allowed to miss eight class days per semester. They also have strict guidelines against enrolling in online courses to prevent coaches from having them schedule classes around practices. This has led, said Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims, to the UI ranking fourth or fifth in the Big Ten in overall graduation rates for student-athletes.

"Seventy-four percent graduation rates don't happen by accident," Athletics Director Gary Barta said.

To track progress, UI academic officials conduct interviews with student-athletes at the beginning of each semester to identify problems and refer students to resources.

Mims said that alongside the semester evaluations, the university establishes a new set of goals on an annual basis.

"We take great pride in the collaborations we have on campus. Without all the support we receive, we could not accomplish all we do," Mims said. "We work to establish a culture that has been very well-received. Not just in the Big Ten but nationwide."

Producing successful alumni will help the university long-term, he said.

"Athletes become our future recruiters," Mims said. "We take the students from where they're at. We respect them for being themselves, and we work with them from there."

Peter Gray, an associate director of athletics student services, spoke highly of the student-athlete tutoring program offered at the university. Gray said just under 3,000 tutor sessions have been held this academic year so far. All athletes are eligible for free tutoring, taught by tutors who have degrees in their specialties.

Gray emphasized all tutors must be well-educated on NCAA rules and regulations.

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