The Final Four Based on Graduation Rates

We have embarked upon the annual ritual of “March madness”.  For the next three weeks, people think nothing of becoming fanatics for basketball teams attempting to become National Champions.  “Harmless fun”, some may call it.  “The reason for the season” others have described it.  “The real national pastime” many refer to it as.  No matter what one calls this silly phenomenon, it is far more devious than it appears.

A student is supposed to go to College to study, learn and receive a degree.  Every year, millions of College students do just that.  For the vast majority of students, their ability to attend College comes at a huge expense to their parents or themselves.  The four or five years it takes most people to graduate from College entails a financial sacrifice of epic proportions for many.  Some parents save money for 18 years just to provide their child with a College education.  Some students are still repaying student loans years after graduating from College.  Some students carry full case loads plus work full-time jobs just to pay for tuition.

There are two types of students which do not fit the above mentioned mold.  There are many students who attend College because “Daddy and Mommy” insisted.  In other words, their parents are very rich and demand their children get a College education.  The trouble is, since the student puts nothing into the process, they get little out of it.  College becomes a four year party zone or social club instead of the learning experience it was designed to be.

That leaves those who attend College on scholarships.  There are academic scholarships awarded to those with high grade point levels and who score very high on placement exams.  These students of course excel in College for learning is their life and they love to study and be excellent students.  The other types of scholarships are awarded to those whose talents will benefit the University.  Whether musical, dramatic or athletic; these scholarships though legitimate, can become grossly unfair.

When looking at the graduation rates for kids on athletic scholarships, the statistics are depressing.  Most major colleges see graduation rates at 50% or less, especially for basketball players.  Why is a student given a “free ride” to college to not graduate?  Why is the money spent on someone whose focus is entertainment and not learning?  You and I both know the answer, and it is disgusting.

Athletes are recruited and lured to attend a particular university for one reason only; and that is to make the athletic team greater so as to bring in more money.  For the most parts, the men we watch bouncing basketballs the next three weeks have been hired by their respective colleges to draw fans to games and make it to the “March madness” where the big bucks are.  For many of the kids playing the game, their only concern is displaying enough talent to land a NBA contract after one, or two years of college.  The whole system is terrible.

Why did a little school like Bucknell capture America’s fancy a couple of years ago?  It was in part because they upset Kansas, but more importantly it was because these were student athletes and not athletes who happened to go to class once or twice.  I recently read that of all the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament this year, Western Kentucky had the highest graduation rate of all.  Upon reading this, I now know who to “root for” in this silly tournament.  The other top schools are Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue, Davidson.  Herein lies my wish for the “final four” or as it is, the final five.



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