Winning or losing combination?
Nova Southeastern University
Student-Athletes have become the stereotype for a failing college student - a new punchball for society. Without any real evidential background, they have been portrayed in public media as lazy students with poor grades. Based upon journals and reports that I have examined (mainly Umbach, Palmer, Kuh, and Hannah’s, Intercollegiate Athletes and Effective Educational Practices: Winning Combination or Losing Effect? (2004)), I am going to discuss the different views on student-athletes and compare them to the regular college student in an attempt to prove that participating in an intercollegiate sport while attending college is not necessarily a bad thing. I will also compare grades and standardized testing scores between student-athletes and non-athlete students, both prior and during college, over a wide spectrum of Division I, II and III institutions. I intend to show that college student-athletes in fact have higher collegiate grades, a higher participation rate in the classroom as well as a higher graduation rate than their peer non-athlete students.
Over the years, there have been many articles and reports written about the subject ‘student athletes and academics’. You might ask yourself why. For starters, student-athletes have over the years been portrayed as “Dumb Jocks” and often associated with games that schools play in order to receive the best players. These games are not just based on special treatment in school such as bribes, money and preferential treatment in the classroom but also in the admissions process. However these are just rumors, but there exist written pieces about it. Examples suggesting this are written materials by Shulman and Bowen (2001) and Bowen and Levin (2003), all criticizing the concept of college athletics. They are also suggesting that student athletes get preferential treatment in the admissions process, making them under-prepared academically compared to their non-athlete peers. As a result, it is suggested that student athletes earn lower grades in college. Aside from the special treatment, they argue that “institutions allow athletes to create their own subculture and that it flourishes, isolated and insulated from the lager campus culture”. However, other reports suggest the opposite such as higher motivation among student-athletes to success academically, higher-order cognitive activities and higher learning for self-understanding (Wolniak, Pierson & Pascarella, 2001). Furthermore, there are also reports suggesting that there are no differences between student athletes and non-athletes in regard to cognitive development (Pascarella, Bohr, Nora, & Terenzini, 1995; Terenzini, Pascarella, & Blimling, 1996), grades in college (Hood, Craig, & Ferguson, 1992), or time devoted to studying or attending class (Richard & Aries, 1999). With all this in mind, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that the subject in matter is a jungle and there are many controversies out there. Even the phrase ‘student-athlete’ is a very loose term and has a different meaning to a lot of people. Football and Basketball are the two biggest and most popular college sports (Knobler, 2008). Because of this fact it would be easy to make the assumption that whatever goes for those students are automatically applied to all other student-athletes. Mike Knobler examines Division I football player’s SAT scores and grades in his report posted in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2008) which suggests overall lower standardized testing scores and GPAs among student athletes compared to the remaining student body. On the other hand, Division I schools such as Florida Gulf Coast University reports a higher GPA among all student athletes compared to their non-athlete peers (Hale, 2010). To make this a fair race, let us first compare standardized testing scores and GPAs among...
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