Racial Graduation Disparity Growing For College Athletes

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vince carter graduating from unc

Vince Carter graduating from North Carolina University in 1998. A study released Monday shows growing disparity between graduation rates for white and black players at schools in the men's NCAA basketball tournament. White players show a 91 percent graduation rate, which is up 7 percent. Black players have a graduation rate at 59 percent, up 3 percent from last year's study. This is the third straight year the gap has increased.

ORLANDO, Fla. — A study released Monday shows growing disparity between graduation rates for white and black players at schools in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament.

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An annual report by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found a 2 percent overall graduation rate increase to 66 percent for Division I players, but showed the rates for white players is increasing at a higher rate.

The gap has grown from 22 percent in 2009 to a current level of 32 percent. White players show a 91 percent graduation rate, which is up 7 percent. Black players have a graduation rate at 59 percent, up 3 percent from last year’s study. This is the third straight year the gap has increased.

Richard Lapchick, the institute director and primary author of the study, said the gap makes it hard to celebrate the overall progress.

“To say that it’s troubling is an understatement,” Lapchick said. “It is a staggering gap, but I think you’ve seen an increased percentage among African-American athletes over the years because of the (Academic Progress Rate) thresholds. Losing scholarships is a big lever there. But I think now you have to raise the expectation level of the rates.”

Information was collected by the NCAA from member institutions for the study. The institute reviewed the six-year graduation rates of each school’s freshman class that enrolled in 2003-04, then calculated a four-class average. Princeton was not included in the overall graduation rate figure because it, like other Ivy League schools, doesn’t report graduation rates.

Only five schools (Boston University, Northern Colorado, Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, North Carolina-Ashville) have graduation rates for black players that were higher than their figures for white players.

The NCAA created the APR in 2004 to improve graduation rates, disciplining schools in the form of lost scholarships when they don’t meet the NCAA standard for academic performance. Teams that score below 925 – equal to a graduation rate of 50 percent- can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships. Poor performance over time could lead to harsher penalties.

Lapchick said he would like to see the NCAA standard go up to 60 percent. Only 10 teams in this year’s tournament show APRs below 925, with 41 teams with an APR of 950 or higher and 36 teams with an APR of 960 or higher.

“I think that would help also put pressure on athletes, including African-American basketball players, and the schools will have to be more accountable to make sure they have the opportunity to be successful in finishing their degrees,” Lapchick said.

A report on the teams competing in the women’s NCAA tournament will be released Tuesday.

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