SEMO Basketball One of Lowest for Grad Rates

SEMO Basketball One of Lowest for Grad Rates
By: Mike Shain
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Southeast Missouri State University gave basketball scholarships to seven freshmen to start the 1997 season but only one ever graduated.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCA) says that was the second worst record of the 318 four-year schools it tracks academically.
Southeast says the numbers, a graduation rate of 14%, aren't as bad as they might look.  One player left the school but got a degree elsewhere and another just recently completed his degree.  But the rules say student athletes must graduate within six years from the school where they started.  Southeast can't count the two graduates, otherwise it could count three of seven finishing degrees. 
Jason Santos is Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance at Southeast.  He says much has changed in 10 years.  The NCAA monitors an athlete's progress toward a degree.  That includes requiring a minimum number of hours that qualify as leading to a degree.  That means "no basket weaving or easy courses" adding up to nothing, according to Santos.
Many students who fail to graduate have respectable grades.  Santos says some quit only a few hours or a semester from graduation.  The current Redhawks basketball team has one player who has graduated and another who'll finish his degree in December.  Both remain eligible to play.  More than 100 student athletes have grade point averages (GPA) over 3.00 and the ladies gymnastics team has a 3.7 average.
Santos says basketball has been the weakest sport on graduation but that's now trending up.  Students get more help than they did 10 years ago.  The Redhawk Success Center offers student athletes tutors and 18 computer stations.  They can get help if they need it.
By next year, the unusually poor 1997 numbers will no long be part of the 10 year report which Santos says will show the improvement made by Southeast toward higher graduation rates for athletes.   Not every problem can be solved.  Santos says one young man left the program because he was homesick.