participate in service
Student-athletes at Union
County College must meet
academic criteria to stay
in the game.
in class rather than on the court. She wanted
both, but she wanted us to grow as individuals
and be successful in the real world."
Jones also learned the "soft skills" prized by
employers, using a color-coded calendar to organize her busy schedule and reaching out to staff
if there was anything she needed. If Jones has any
advice for athletes entering community college,
it's to not be afraid to ask for assistance.
"Start by speaking to the coach—have a conversation with them on their expectations for you
as a student-athlete," Jones says. "This is a person
you'll be spending a lot of time with, and they're
going to know your strengths and weaknesses.
You want to start building that network as soon
as you get to campus."
NUMBERS DON'T LIE
Thanks to technology, there's no excuse for a
community college not to have some form of
student-athlete tracking protocol, says NJCAA
Executive Director Christopher Parker. A database on the association's website allows college
staff to plug in credit hours and other information pertinent to athlete eligibility, with these
figures randomly audited by the NJCAA.
By the numbers, the focus on academics is
working: For the 2016-17 school year, the NJCAA
reported a 3. 2 GPA for 6,006 student-athletes after
their fourth full-time semester, representing an
all-time record for the organization.
"These (numbers) are broadcasting our motto
of 'opportunity starts here,'" Parker says. "We know
there's a great return on investment for every single
individual who goes to a community college. When
you think about why a student-athlete chooses to
attend a two-year school, if they're able to earn a
degree and become a great citizen, that's a win."
Helping athletes transfer to four-year institution should be the goal of any community college,
given the statistical unlikelihood of achieving professional sports wealth and fame, says Mozafari
of West Los Angeles College. In contrast, the likelihood of an athlete earning a college degree is
significantly greater. Per figures compiled by the
NCAA in April 2018, graduation success rates for
athletes were 86 percent in Division I, 71 percent
in Division II and 87 percent in Division III.
"For me, it's going back to our mission: Are these
students getting their associate degree, moving on
to the four-year level and becoming a better person
compared to when they first arrived?" Mozafari says.
"Their Plan A is to play sports, but they have to be realistic about creating a Plan B. If athletics don't pan out,
at least they'll be academically ready to transfer."