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Recent college athletic scandals would have us believe that many, if not the majority, of student athletes are dunces. In fact, a study conducted by the American College Testing Program for the National Collegiate Athletic Association indicates that, on the whole, male athletes graduate more often than other male students.

At the 46 institutions cooperating in the study, the graduation rate of male athletes was 52 percent, that for nonathletes 41.5. Basketball and football players graduated at roughly the same rate as nonathletes. Therefore, athletes in such sports as track, golf, and swimming basically accounted for the higher overall rate.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise. Coaches pressured to produce winning, revenue-producing football and basketball programs are more likely to recruit marginal students. Sometimes these players come from educationally deprived areas and hold no academic aspirations.

The fact remains, however, that male athletes more often collect degrees than nonathletes, according to the study. Just what this means is subject to debate.

Do the results, for instance, indicate that athletes are generally more serious about school? Or maybe it's just that they're prodded toward graduation , either by coaches or their own desire not to squander a scholarship. Sweeping conclusions are hard to draw, but it's reasonable to assume that the self-discipline learned on the playing f ield can carry over to the classroom.

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