A recent study conducted by CNN reported “many (public university) students in the basketball and football programs could read only up to an eighth-grade level.” Although the study doesn’t include numbers from Michigan, the University’s student-athletes have exhibited a history of poor academic performance. Graduation rates for Michigan student-athletes have traditionally been much lower than those of the general student body. In order to facilitate the improvement of academic performance among athletes, the University needs to provide more attentive and personalized support to its student-athletes.

CNN reached out to 40 public universities, asking for the SAT, ACT and reading comprehension scores for its admitted student athletes. On Jan. 7, 2014, CNN published its findings on the 21 schools that responded, and discovered that a majority of schools had “between 7 percent and 18 percent of revenue sport athletes who are reading at an elementary school level.” Michigan was one of the schools that failed to provide information on its students.

In 2013, the University’s Federal Graduation Rate — which measures the graduation rate of freshmen within six years — for football players was 57 percent. The men’s basketball team showed a FGR of 50 percent. Michigan’s six-year graduation rate for all students — athlete or not — was 89.7 percent in 2012, good for fourth-best in the nation.

Student-athletes are pressured into certain degrees, whether they actually find an interest in them or not. For example, within the Kinesiology Department, 60 slots are saved specifically for student-athletes. However, more often than not, athletes find themselves unprepared for the major and shift into general studies. In 2004, 49 percent of students completing general studies majors were being pursued by athletes. This major has no foreign language requirement, fewer graduation requirements and lacks concentration in one subject area, making it a vague and bland degree to pursue. Athletes should be given the same academic attention as any other student at the University, and be encouraged to pursue a major they find an interest in, not the one they are pressured into. Focusing on the athlete’s academic desires can also be applied to giving them a chance to perform to their greatest potential, both on the field and in the classroom. The University and NCAA should also consider relaxing the time and financial constraints put on student-athletes through the limitations of four-year scholarships and other restrictive rules that push students to graduate as quickly as possible.

However, the negative trend between athletes and academics isn’t something the University, or any college, can solve. Most of these students enter the University unequipped for rigorous higher education, starting at the elementary school level. The mere fact that some athletes are barely literate and not graduating shows that the education system is failing to teach students, and is emphasizing too much on athleticism. Without reforms to the present education system, athletes will continue to be left in the dust.

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