The NCAA announced on Tuesday that the USC student-athlete graduation rate has risen to 83 percent, an all-time high for the university. The figure reflects how many students graduated within six years of their enrollment.
Magdi El Shahawy, the senior associate athletic director in charge of student-athlete academic services at USC, told USC News, "We continue to be very pleased with the performance of our student-athletes in the classroom and with the culture of academic success that has been established in our athletic department. Much credit goes to the hard work of our student-athletes and the support they get from their coaches to graduate."
This year, seven USC sports had a graduation rate above 90 percent:
- women’s soccer at 100 percent,
- women’s water polo at 96 percent,
- women’s rowing at 96 percent,
- women’s swimming at 95 percent,
- women’s volleyball at 92 percent,
- men’s volleyball at 92 percent,
- women’s volleyball at 92 percent,
- and women’s basketball at 92 percent.
USC News also reported that eight USC sports are projected to hit record graduation rates in 2017, with five on track to reach 100 percent.
The football student-athlete completion rate is expected to rise by six percentage points to 73 percent within the next year. Compared to other USC sports, the football rate is impacted by students preparing to join the NFL, which leads them to leave school early and not complete the expected requirements within the six-year time frame.
But USC running back Ronald "Rojo" Jones said USC strives to better its athletes both on the field and off.
"They definitely encourage us a lot," Jones said. He spends most of his time practicing and prepping for football but he also has four academic tutors to help him balance schoolwork alongside a four-hour daily practice, he said.
On the team, he added, there isn't an apathy toward grades because of a "no pass, no play" system that requires players to pass a certain number of units.
But USC men's basketball starting guard said that athletes have an incentive to put their sports careers over school.
"As an athlete, you always have to put things in perspective," said starting guard Elijah Stewart. "Your mind goes out farther than your body will, so the priority, for sure the top priority, is to go pro. Make as much money as you can because you can always go back and get your degree."
Playing in the Pac-12 conference has its perks, according to Stewart.
"They make it easy for you to come back and get our degree, if we ever do decide to come back and seek higher education again," he said. "If you end up going pro early, it's a win-win because even if you don't make it, you can still come back."
Time-management often presents a struggle to freshman student-athletes. Sophomore football student-athlete Dominic Davis said he struggled with time management early on, but it's become easier.
As a first-generation college student, Davis is determined to get his degree.
"I'm going to get my degree before anything," he said.
Davis also said Head Football Coach Clay Helton encourages the team on and off the field, making sure to emphasize just how far along football-athlete academic progression has come.
"He is a big person on grades," Davis said.
Erin Bridgewater, who works on academic success programs in USC Athletics, said that the tutoring and learning specialists were extremely popular among the athletes.
"We have about 80 tutors and can't fill all those requests," she said. "If everyone could get tutoring, they would."
USC is ranked sixth in Pac-12 graduation rates. In the future, the university aims to reach as close to 100 percent as possible.
Reach Staff Reporter Hamdah Salhut here.