Schools and the NCAA have attempted to raise college athlete graduation rates, a subject of a previous post here. California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a law designed to further address the graduation rate woes in certain college athletic programs, at least for four schools in his state (UCLA, USC, Stanford, and UC Berkley). The “Student-Athletes Bill of Rights” law has three features, all meant to mitigate the risk of a student athlete dropping out.
First, the law requires that student athletes get a guaranteed four-year scholarship so long as the university does not dismiss them “for cause.” The law carves out an exception that permits schools not to renew a scholarship to an un-injured athlete if it graduates more than 60% of its student athletes. Critically and wisely, the law requires schools to disaggregate their graduation rate data by sport. Aggregated graduation rate data typically hides poor baseball, football, and basketball student athlete graduation rates. The law also makes sure to name basketball and football players in its definition of student athletes. According to one report, UCLA, USC and California have consistently had extremely large gaps between the graduation rates of their general student body and those of their football and basketball players.
Photographed by: Bobak Ha’Eri
Second, the law protects students from incurring prohibitive medical costs due to an injury incurred as a result of playing the sport for which they have a scholarship. Specifically, the law requires schools to pay all medical costs for students, including insurance premiums and deductibles for low-income students.
Third, the law requires a “life skills workshop” for freshmen and juniors designed to encourage student athletes to understand debt, budgeting, and time-management.
At bottom, the law mitigates the higher risks facing student athletes due to injury and historically and currently low graduation rates. It does so by addressing both the educational and physical needs of California students. Stanford, apparently able to solve the graduation rate gap issue, and U.S.C. reportedly offer an equitable objection to the law, arguing that these protections should be extended to all California college student athletes and not just the four here. However, big money schools like the California PAC-12 schools affected here have the resources available to take on the additional costs imposed by the “Student-Athletes Bill of Rights.” Indeed, the law requires these schools to pay for any additional costs out of their media-rights revenue. Most agree, however, that the state should pursue the principle that “neither personal injury nor poverty should dim the dreams of a student-athlete pursuing a college degree.”