Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Determinants of College Basketball Graduation Rates

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Determinants of College Basketball Graduation Rates

Article excerpt


Universities receive their non-profit status thanks to their role of educating students but the business aspect of college sports continues to grow and expand. The University of Texas leads collegiate athletic programs with over $120 million a year in revenue generation, which include approximately $15 million generated by the men's basketball program and $3 million by the women's basketball program. Critics of college sports cite the revenue generated by athletics as evidence of their commercial nature. Supporters counter by stating the overall goal of athletics is not to turn a profit but to provide financial support to student athletes and increase the university's national profile (McEvoy, 2005; Smith, 2008). Proponents of major college athletics highlight the positive externalities associated with the public relations and institutional branding produced by successful athletic programs (Smith, 2008). The role of athletics on a college campus can be debated but graduation rates measuring the proportion of an entering class that have graduated within a specific number of years are one of the most common outcome measures. Scott, Bailey, and Keinzl (2006) argue for using six-year graduation rates as a performance measure because it is one of the most important measures, is a measure available for a large number of institutions, and allows comparable findings to other results in the literature.

Athletics is a driving force at many institutions of higher education. The purpose of this research is to investigate the determinants of six-year graduation rates for college basketball programs. The determinants model considers multiple variables including athletic program profits, basketball program profits, winning, institution size, recruiting budget, men's versus women's program, public versus private institutions, and financial support. The organization of the manuscript is as follows: The first section offers a brief review of the literature. The second section describes the data and model. The next section offers empirical results for the determinants of six-year graduation rates for college basketball derived from 434 college basketball programs. The final section offers a summary and conclusions.


One of the most pressing issues facing American universities is the number of students who fail to graduate. Low graduation rates cost universities scarce resources; weaken the ability to meet educational objectives; and are perceived to reflect the university's ability to meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of students (Mangold, Bean & Adams, 2003). There is a dearth of research on the graduation rates of college athletes and athletic programs but there is an established independent research track for both graduation rates and various aspects of college athletics. Retention rate has dominated studies looking at academic persistence. Academic and social attachment currently forms the foundation of most research on persistence and graduation success (Pasarella & Terenzini, 1991; Tinto, 1993). Institutional or social policy designed to increase retention generally focus on strengthening student attachment, for example through improving student services or increasing intramural and varsity athletics. Metzger and Bean (1987) find that age and goals have a greater role in persistence and related outcomes for nontraditional than traditional students.

Mangold, Bean, and Adams (2003) find a negative relationship between athletic success and graduation rates at NCAA Division I institutions. Successful intercollegiate sports may not provide a mechanism for academic integration and may, under certain conditions, actually weaken it. In order to resolve this possible conflict between the results and the existing literature, the authors begin by pointing out that social involvement, if carried too far, can result in suboptimal outcomes. …

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