Stevens: Want a UNM Degree? Be a Lobo!
Oct. 25, 2011
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It is beginning to look like the best way to graduate from the University of New Mexico is to take up a sport.
The UNM athletic department set a school mark by graduating 61 percent of its student-athletes who enrolled at UNM as freshmen during the 2004-2005 school year. That 2011 measurement is up 11 percent from the 2010 mark of 50 percent and a whopping 17 percent higher than the "all-student" rate of 44 percent.
This is the fifth consecutive year the student-athlete graduation rate at UNM has exceeded the graduate rate for all-students. The graduation rate in 2011 for Lobo male student-athletes was 51 percent (up 13 percent) and the graduation rate for Lobo female student-athletes was 72 percent (up nine percent).
Those numbers also were all-time highs for UNM athletes.
These numbers were released by the NCAA and reflect the graduation rate for the general student population of a university and also the graduation rate for student-athletes. The NCAA also tracks graduation rates for Black student-athletes and UNM's 59 percent was an all-time high for Lobos.
"The graduation rates for our student-athletes have been a priority with this administration since Day One," said Paul Krebs, UNM's vice president in charge of athletics. "This steady improvement is a testament to that commitment, but it also is a reflection of dedication from our athletes, our coaches, and the academic support system that embraces our student-athletes."
It has been said that athletics are the front door, the welcome mat, to a university. If so, the front door called "Lobos" is doing its share to enhance the University of New Mexico's reputation as an institution of higher education. These Lobos are graduating at an all-time high.
It's also interesting to note that since the graduation of Lobo student-athletes is applied to the "all-student" category, the figures from the UNM athletic department actually enhance the "all-student" graduation rate at UNM.
This improved success in the graduation rate at UNM is a reflection of a long-range goal by Krebs that sought immediate results.
"When I first met with Paul about establishing a realistic graduation rate, we set the goal at 60 percent," said Henry Villegas, an Assistant Athletics Director in charge of academics. "I guess we need to raise the bar.
"Academic success starts with the coaches and the administration, who provide motivation, discipline and support. But academic achievement and diplomas are also a tribute to our student-athletes, who buy into the concept that their education will last far beyond their competitive years."
UNM's administration, coaches and the department's philosophy are strong reasons for the continued success in the classroom by the Lobo student-athlete, but another plus is the Lobo Center for Student-Athlete Success. This is a building full of support personnel and learning tools to help UNM students achieve academic success.
UNM had 126 student-athletes named Mountain West Scholar-Athletes (3.5 GPA or higher) from the 2010-11 season. You get grades like that and you graduate.
"We established a department record at 61 percent, but that doesn't mean we are satisfied," said Krebs. "We'll continue to raise the academic bar and continue to do the things necessary to help our student-athletes excel in the classroom."
The Lobo diplomas continue to increase under Krebs' administration. He inherited a program that posted a 37 percent graduation rate in 2006. That rate was at 55 percent in 2009 and 61 percent in the 2011 tracking period.
The Lobos also have seen significant jumps in the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) since the pre-Krebs' days. The GSR factors in transfer athletes (coming and going), while the aforementioned federal rate (61 percent) only tracks incoming freshmen. The Lobos' overall 2011 GSR was 74 percent. It was 58 percent in 2006.
In fact, every Lobo sport tracked continues to beat the GSR numbers set in 2006.
Baseball: 2006 - 50 percent; 2011 - 63 percent.
The combination of the academic philosophy from the Lobo administration, the support systems and support personnel, and the not-always-gentle prodding from the coaches, has led to improved grades as well as improved graduation rates at UNM.
"A non-student-athlete doesn't always have someone specifically providing the motivation," said Villegas. "The carrot for the student-athlete is the opportunity to play collegiate athletics and also to get financial help with their education.
"They also are dealing with a specific coach, who doesn't simply expect success in the classroom, but who also demands it."
Other recently released NCAA numbers stress the academic pride that surrounds UNM athletics and Lobo athletes:
"Our administration is adamant about our athletes becoming honor students and leaving UNM with their degrees," said Ray Birmingham, UNM's baseball coach. "This isn't just administrative talk. Our department does everything it can to stress to our coaches and to our athletes that education is a priority at UNM."