Athletic participation affects retention rates at colleges

By Elizabeth Krupka
October 16, 2010

With retention rates fluctuating at Cabrini, the athletic department has been considered a selling point to prospective students applying for college.

According to Joe Giunta, athletic director at Cabrini, the athletic department helps silence the often asked questions from admission and enrollment directors such as “Do we need to add more activities?” “Should we lower the tuition?” “Why don’t students seem to be happy here?”

“I think athletics affect retention at every college. Student-athletes reap many positive benefits from being a part of a team. Many student-athletes come to a school because of athletics. This makes them more connected to a group of people and more attached to stay,” Giunta said.

In 2009 Cabrini College had 250-275 unduplicated, individual student-athletes.  For a small school like Cabrini College, 250 students involved in the athletic program is a significant number.

When a student comes to college, it is crucial that they become a part of some group. It allows them to make friends and to meet new people, in addition to helping students to stay actively involved in the campus.

“It can considerably affect retention for a student to be a part of any group whether it’s sports, the business club, or SGA,” Giunta said.

Sports in particular, are a heavy time commitment. This is why some students are leery to continue playing sports after high school.

“This year I am not playing soccer for Cabrini like I had the past two years.  I do feel like I have more time to be a part of different clubs and organizations, but I will say that I miss the comradery of a team,” Amanda Robotti, elementary education major, said.

While some students have had to drop sports to allow more free time, others say the heavy involvement benefits them.

“Sports are what tied me to Cabrini. Jackie [field hockey coach] and the team kept me grounded and helped to keep me out of trouble,” Bridget Bergen, 2009 alumna, said.

According to Giunta, it is a myth that student-athletes have bad grades. Student-athletes at Cabrini have to maintain a certain grade point average in order to play on the field.

“Athletics helps to teach students life skills. Skills that they will one day need in the workforce such as leadership, teamwork, perseverance and hard work. These are life lessons that they will not only need professionally, but socially as well,” Guinta said.

Some students who don’t participate in college athletics say they feel disconnected from the campus community on the weekends.

“On the weekends I do not feel as involved as student-athletes here,” Sam Stiles, junior educational studies major, said. “Not so much on the week days because that is full of personal school schedules, but on the weekends I do feel that the campus is more geared toward athletes and their schedules.”

Giunta says retention is a result of student involvement. Student athletics, being one of the student involvement opportunities, has proved to be a positive aspect of student engagement.

“Everyone wants to get a student attached to a group. This ties into retention, groups and clubs allow students to have fun and when you are having fun hopefully that is what will keep students here,” Giunta said.

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Elizabeth Krupka

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