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AP Analysis Targets "Special Admissions" for Student-Athletes

January 5, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

A recent analysis by the Associated Press (AP) shows that student-athletes are 10 times more likely than non-athletes to gain admission to their intended colleges and universities through a "special admissions" process. The special admissions refer to allowing students to attend a school on criteria outside of what is typically judged by admissions officials, such as grades and standardized test scores. Put more simply, if you're a stellar athlete with grades that aren't so stellar, you're more likely to gain admittance to an institution of higher education than your less athletic peers.

The analysis identified more than 25 schools, including Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Alabama, where admissions requirements were bent significantly in favor of athletes. According to the AP, at the University of Alabama, 19 football players got in as part of a special admissions program from 2004 to 2006, the most recent years available in admissions data submitted to the NCAA by most of the 120 schools in college football's top tier. The AP got the information using open record laws. Ten schools did not respond to the AP's request, and 18 other schools, including the University of Notre Dame and the University of Southern California, declined to release their admissions data.

Coaches contacted for the AP story justified the special admissions on the basis that other students with special talents - musicians, for example, or gifted dancers - are also judged based on those talents. "Some people have ability and they have work ethic and really never get an opportunity," the University of Alabama's coach Nick Saban said in the article.

So do you buy it? The AP article suggests there isn't anything inherently wrong with special admissions, until it leads to student-athletes being admitted to schools they aren't prepared to attend. Should NCAA admissions criteria be more lax then? Student-athletes participating in NCAA sports are expected to not only have a minimum GPA and decent standardized test scores, but to maintain those qualifications while on a team. Those admitted for their special skills may not be ready for the rigors involved in maintaining a certain academic standard, or more generally, keeping to a rigorous academic schedule. What do you think? Should certain groups of students be offered "special admissions," or should standards remain the same across the board?


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