Playing smart

by Leslie Turk

Cajuns Lead Sun Belt, state in federal graduation rates UL Lafayette announced Thursday that its Ragin' Cajuns student-athletes graduate at the highest rate among student-athletes in schools in both the state and the Sun Belt Conference, according to the Federal Graduation Rates statistics released by the NCAA this week.

Photo by Brad Kemp/UL sports

The statistics includes student-athletes on aid entering school during the 2006-07 academic year, and it indicates the percentage of those who graduate within six years.

In the one-year FGR for the 2006-07 scholarship freshman class, the most recent year with complete data, 75 percent of Ragin' Cajuns student-athletes entering in fall 2006 graduated within six years.

That rate is well above the 44 percent registered by the regular student body. It ranks the Cajuns ahead of second place Western Kentucky (70 percent) among Sun Belt schools and second place Tulane (71 percent) among other Louisiana schools.

In addition, UL has a Student-Athlete Graduation Success rate of 74 percent and a four-year GSR of 61 percent.

"To graduate our student-athletes at a higher rate than any other university in both the state of Louisiana and among our fellow Sun Belt Conference peers is a testament to the academic commitment demonstrated daily by our student-athletes, coaches and staff," UL Associate Athletic Director Jessica Leger said in the announcement.

"The mission of the athletics department is to see our student-athletes graduate and working towards that goal is the focal point of everything that we do," she continued. "Our academic support staff works tirelessly to provide our student-athletes with quality academic support services that aid in accomplishing academic success."

Both the GSR and FGR are based on the number of student-athletes on athletics aid enrolling in school each year, according to the university. A number of variables can impact these figures, such as student-athletes who opt for professional or educational opportunities outside of their original institution, coaching staff changes, and student-athletes in good academic standing who choose to leave school early.

UL notes that the FGR is mandated by the U.S. Government and reflects the number of scholarship student-athletes who enter an institution in a specific academic year and graduate from that same institution within six academic years. It does not factor in transfer students leaving or entering an institution; the FGR counts transfers simply as non-graduates and therefore is typically lower than the GSR.

The GSR was developed by the NCAA as part of its academic reform initiative to more accurately measure the academic success of Division I student-athletes by better accounting for the many different academic paths followed by today's college students. It accounts for students who transfer into an institution, and does not penalize institutions that have student-athletes who choose to transfer out while still in good academic standing. The NCAA began collecting GSR data with the entering freshman class of 1995.