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WLU Hilltopper student athletes receive good report

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association's latest Division II graduation rate data, including the division's Academic Success Rate results, shows that graduation rates for Division II student-athletes continue to significantly exceed those of the general student body.

At West Liberty University, the Federal Graduation Rate was higher for Hilltopper student-athletes than non-athletes for the eighth consecutive year.

According to the NCAA's most recent survey, which targeted freshmen entering college in 2006, WLU student-athletes had graduated at a 46 percent clip compared to 40 percent for the general student population. That 6 percent edge mirrors the national trend which also showed student-athletes entering in 2006 with a 6 percent graduation advantage over the general student body, 54 percent to 48 percent.

"We've been really dedicated to the ‘student' side of the student-athlete equation at West Liberty over the years as these statistics show," WLU athletic director Jim Watson said. "It's a credit to the focus our coaches and administrators place on academics here at the university but it also speaks well for the quality of our student-athletes and their commitment to obtaining an outstanding education."

This reporting cycle also marked the eighth year that Academic Success Rate data have been collected for Division II institutions. The ASR was developed by the NCAA at the request of college and university presidents who believed the federal graduation rate was flawed.

Similar to the federal graduation rate, the ASR also takes transfer students into account while removing students who left the institution in good academic standing.

Given the partial-scholarship financial aid model of Division II, it goes a step further by including student-athletes not receiving athletic scholarships. As a result, the Division II Academic Success Rate counts more than twice the enrolled student-athletes as the federal rate, including more than 36,000 who receive no athletics-related financial aid.

West Liberty's student-athletes also fared well in this expanded metric.

Of the 14 Hilltopper sports teams tracked in the survey of student-athletes who entered the university from 2003-06, 11 of them were found to have ASRs of 50 percent or higher.

West Liberty's female student-athletes were especially impressive with all seven women's sports surveyed showing ASRs well above 50 percent and five of them at 75 percent or higher for the period. Leading the way were women's tennis and volleyball at 89 percent, followed by women's basketball (80 percent), women's track and field (78 percent) and women's golf (75 percent).

"The ASR has quickly become an important metric in our ability to monitor the progress of our student-athlete population in the classroom," Watson said. "We're very pleased to see the ASR numbers bear out our commitment to help our student-athletes compete academically as well as athletically."

Of the 16 Division II men's sports, 11 saw four-year ASR numbers remain steady or increase, including: baseball, basketball, fencing, golf, ice hockey, rifle (mixed), skiing, soccer, swimming, tennis, and water polo.

A total of 17 women's sports were surveyed and 12 of them saw their four-year ASR data remain steady or increase, including: crew, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, skiing, soccer, softball, tennis, volleyball and water polo.

Division II institutions continue to study ways to increase the overall student body graduation rates and are looking at a number of factors that impact it, including the economic climate of the country and how it impacts students' ability to enroll and remain in college.

At the 2014 NCAA Convention, Division II membership will vote on the Path to Graduation legislative package, which includes recommendations for initial-eligibility standards and progress towards degree requirements.