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Augustana athletes score high graduation rates

February  05, 2014

Balancing all the demands of college is tough. Because those demands can be even more rigorous for student-athletes, one might hypothesize that fewer student-athletes graduate. However, Mike Zapolski knows better.

As Augustana’s director of athletics, Zapolski offers statistics from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to disprove that hypothesis and point to excellent graduation rates for Augustana student-athletes.

Mike Zapolski

Among Division III colleges, the six-year graduation rate for student-athletes is 69 percent. At Augustana College the six-year graduation rate for student-athletes 90 percent.

“The statistics highlight the fact that all Augustana students are seriously committed to their education and completing work toward a four-year degree,” said Zapolski.

He explained these recent stats from the NCAA, noting it has long been a requirement for NCAA schools to report an annual graduation rate, but because Division III institutions do not provide athletic scholarships, there has not been an in-depth review of student-athlete graduation rates until recently.

Zapolski said, “Beginning four years ago, the NCAA asked Division III schools to voluntarily participate in a survey of student-athlete graduation rates.”

Augustana has participated in the voluntary survey all four years, and the survey results illustrate that Augustana student-athlete graduation rate exceed that of the general student body – 78 percent – as well as the average rate among student-athletes from all Division III colleges.

Zapolski, who has served in his current position since 2008, notes that the graduation rates are earned not given. “First and foremost, the students themselves deserve credit for the outstanding graduation rate.”

Augustana’s tradition of excellence on and off the field also is symbolized by its record of producing Academic All-Americans. Augustana ranks sixth in the nation among all divisions with 149 Academic All-Americans, second among Division III schools, behind only MIT. The Vikings have produced two Academic All-Americans of the year and had 28 student-athletes earn NCAA postgraduate scholarships.

“In terms of the student-athletes, our coaching staff clearly does an excellent job of successfully identifying and convincing young men and women and their parents that Augustana is the right college choice,” said Zapolski. “Of course, the overall commitment of the administration, faculty and staff play a significant role in the graduation rates and student success. All of these people are vested in creating a community of personal growth and learning.”

A Pepperdine graduate and former sports information director, Zapolski himself personifies the commitment that those who work at Augustana have for those who have chosen to both study and athletically compete there. His hands-on leadership allows him to know students and coaches personally in the 23-sport intercollegiate athletic program.

He’s gratified to know that the hard work of the students and those who coach them in Augustana classrooms and on the playing fields is evident, saying, “The most recent NCAA graduation statistics serve as tangible evidence that Augustana is truly committed to the academic success of its student-athletes. Our coaches are highly motivated to field highly successful teams that compete at the conference and national level, but our first priority is always the academic success of our student-athletes.”

Keri Rursch
Director of Public Relations
(309) 794-7721
kerirursch@augustana.edu