October 19, 2016
Johnson State College varsity student-athletes are hitting the courts and the fields as hard as they ever have. But they’re hitting the books even harder than before — and it shows in their GPAs.
Since the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) was established as a pilot in 2014-15 and implemented for all varsity sports last year, JSC has met its goal of at least 50 percent of teams achieving a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
For the spring ’16 semester, 11 of JSC’s 15 NCAA Division III teams met the goal — two years earlier than called for in the athletics department’s five-year plan and nearly double the number of teams from the fall ’15 semester. Eighty-four individuals surpassed the 3.0 goal.
“The consistent monitoring of our student-athletes’ success in the classroom throughout the semester is one factor that can be attributed to the increase in GPAs,” says JSC Director of Athletics & Recreation Jamey Ventura. “The second would be introducing our student-athletes to the variety of support services on campus for them to be successful in the classroom and beyond, such as internships, career services help and professional development opportunities.”
ASPSA is based on a system of monitoring and support for students. Each varsity team is tracked every semester. An overall ASPSA goal is “to help keep (students) on track throughout the course of the semester to achieve great success in the classroom each semester,” Ventura says.
To meet that objective, student-athletes attend supervised academic sessions for study and homework completion throughout the week at the library, with hourly attendance requirements. In addition, each student-athlete turns in biweekly academic progress reports that track attendance and grades for each class, which help identify any at-risk students, and first-year student-athletes are paired with a mentor for a year to help them acclimate to academics, athletics and social life.
Varsity team members also participate in workshops offered by the Office of Academic Support Services to all JSC students on such topics as time management, goal-setting, conflict resolution and resume-building.
The improved grades of JSC student-athletes are more significant than numbers alone.
“The success they’re having in the classroom certainly affects everything they are doing. Their self-esteem and confidence are raised, which in turn helps them become better leaders and more involved in the community and on their teams. And they become role models for the first-year students,” Ventura says. He notes that student-retention and graduation rates are higher for student-athletes than for the overall student body at JSC.
With student-athletes more engaged in academics, the whole campus benefits. “Our student-athletes are more committed to their classes,” Ventura says. “Their participation level increases, making for a more robust classroom experience for everybody.”