New Report from Penn GSE’s Shaun Harper Finds Alarming Racial Disparities in Student-Athlete Graduation Rates Continuing Despite Skyrocketing NCAA Revenues
Jeff Frantz, Penn GSE Associate Director of Communications
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Black men fill the rosters of the biggest college football and basketball programs in the country. They are crucial to the 65 universities that make up the Power 5 athletic conferences and earn millions in ticket revenue, television rights, and merchandising. But what are these Black student-athletes getting in return?
In a follow up to his groundbreaking 2012 report, Shaun Harper, professor and executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, again finds that Black male student-athletes graduate at lower rates than fellow student-athletes, fellow Black undergraduates, or undergraduates as a whole.
Since the 2012 report, conference realignment has allowed schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, PAC-12, and SEC to grow richer and more powerful. But Harper finds that they are not using their gains to adequately support the education and development of Black male student-athletes, almost all of whom — to use the NCAA’s phrase — will have to “go pro in something other than sports.”
“Black male students who disproportionately comprise teams that earn billions of dollars for universities and the Power 5 conferences should deem the racial inequities highlighted in my report unacceptable,” Harper said. “I bet universities would respond more aggressively to these issues if Black student-athletes, like those at the University of Missouri last fall, threatened revenues by refusing to play.”
Among Harper’s findings:
Harper also recommends steps university leaders, the NCAA and sports commissioners, coaches and athletic departments, sports journalists, and Black male student-athletes and their families can take to improve graduation rates. These include:
“I advise Black male student-athletes and their families to resist the seductive lure of choosing a university because it appears to be a promising gateway to careers in professional sports,” Harper said.
About the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at the University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals, unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit www.gse.upenn.edu.