Thomas W. Durso
Louisiana State University

That an NCAA Division I school provides its student-athletes with academic support services is hardly news. What differentiates Louisiana State University’s efforts is that its support encompasses more than just academics.

LSU’s Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes comprises both an academic affairs division and a student affairs division. The goal is to support student-athletes in their studies as well as in financial literacy, health and wellness, dealing with the media, and other areas.

Kenneth Miles, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs, calls it “treating life skills as a curriculum.”

“We definitely have a holistic approach to dealing with our student-athletes,” Miles says. “We recognize its importance to develop them academically, cognitively, personally and professionally.”

The academic center relies heavily on technology to help student-athletes, whose busy schedules include practices, games and travel. GradesFirst, a student information system, allows staff to track grades and read tutors’ reports. Remote tutoring is conducted through WebEx. And the athletes are given an iPad preloaded with apps to help with note-taking, studying and recording lectures.

Since the academic center’s launch in 2001, graduation rates for student-athletes have risen from 55 percent to 81 percent. LSU’s football program has gone from third-worst in the Southeastern Conference to second-best. And, reflecting the holistic approach, community service hours have nearly tripled.

“Our vision is to be the premiere resource for student-athletes. We recognize it as a transformative process,” Miles says. “The goal is to help them find balance between their optimal levels of academic and personal development.”

Inside the program

  • The academic center administers a psycho-educational screening to every student-athlete on their first day on campus.
  • Individualized educational assistance plans are created, and any student-athlete with an identified learning deficit is assigned to meet with a learning specialist three times per week.
  • Through the center, every student-athlete can sign up for a tutor in any course offered at LSU.

Want more information on this success program? Email to request a complete copy of the institution’s entry form.