CULLOWHEE – The graduation rate for student-athletes who enrolled at Western Carolina University during the 1995-96 academic year is 65 percent, an all-time high, according to a recent report released by the NCAA.
Western’s graduation rate for student-athletes is 5 points above the national average of 60 percent for student-athletes, said Jeff Compher, director of athletics at Western.
“We are closing in on our goal to have the highest graduation rate among the public institutions in the Southern Conference,” Compher said. “At this point, only The Citadel (at 67 percent) and University of North Carolina-Greensboro (70 percent) are at a higher rate.”
Western Chancellor John W. Bardo praised Compher and the athletics department staff for taking the steps necessary to improve the graduation of student-athletes.
“This news reflects the philosophy of our athletics program and indicates what we are trying to accomplish at Western Carolina with our student-athletes,” Bardo said. “Of course, we want them to win on the courts and the playing fields, because that is why they are putting in the hours of practice and training. But for us, winning also means graduating. It means winning not just the game, but winning in the game of life.”
The ability of student-athletes to focus on reaching goals is one reason why student-athletes nationally tend to have higher graduation rates than the general student population, Bardo said. That trend holds true at Western, where the average graduation rate for all students is 47 percent, he said.
“Now we must try to build the same kind of support for the general student population that we are seeing work so well within our athletics programs,” Bardo said. “We must expand upon our historic traditions of small class sizes and caring about each student as an individual so that we can improve the graduation rates of all students.”