Georgetown athletes graduate at a rate almost 30 percent higher than the national average, according to data released last week by the NCAA, which also indicated increases in graduation rates among college athletes.
Over 90 percent of Georgetown athletes who matriculated between 1996-99 receiving athletic aid money graduated within six years, according to the annual survey, compared to 63 percent of student-athletes nationwide during the same time period.
Georgetown was one of only four universities to have a graduation rate of above 90 percent for the four-year period. Bucknell University led the nation, with a rate of 93 percent.
Still, Georgetown’s graduation rate dropped slightly in the most recent data, among students who enrolled in 1999, to 87 percent. That year, athletes at Duke University graduated at a 91 percent rate, leading the nation.
Ron Helmer, Georgetown’s director of track and field and cross country, said that athletes at Georgetown perform well academically and that athletes at Georgetown and other top universities are held to the same rigorous academic standards as other students.
“The situation is that there are schools in the NCAA where over 98 percent of students graduate and then there are others” where athletes are not expected to perform as well academically, he said.
“They just don’t apply to us,” he said about arguments that athletes are subjected to lower academic standards.
Helmer said that Georgetown’s track-and-field athletes perform well in classes when compared to the entire student body. He said that the track-and-field athletes maintain around the same grade point average as those of the average student body, which he said is around 3.25.
According to the report, which collected data from over 630,000 students from 318 colleges and universities nationwide, male and female students graduated at almost identical levels at Georgetown over the four-year period, while black athletes graduated at a rate of 78 percent.
Ricky Barrios (COL ’09), a member of the track and field team, said that being an athlete can actually help some students perform well academically.
“Athletes know how to manage their time better,” he said. “People who come here just don’t come for athletics, but also for academics.”
In a press conference last Thursday announcing the survey’s results, NCAA President Myles Brand said that he objected to claims that student-athletes under-perform academically. Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and eans Committee, sent a letter to Brand last month questioning the quality of academic programs offered for college athletes.
– HOYA Staff Writer Michael Coleman contributed to this report