The NCAA requires high school athletes to take a core curriculum, have a minimum "C" average and have a qualifying Scholastic Aptitude Test score for freshman eligibility at a Division I school. A student must have a grade point average of 2.5 or above and must score 820 or higher on the SAT, a requirement that eliminates many black athletes.
Recently, the NCAA began a process to lower the required SAT score. This position is supported by Division I basketball coaches and the Black Coaches Assn. Some research shows that students who don't qualify under the existing NCAA standards perform academically as well as other students at the college level.
Should the NCAA lower the qualifying SAT score? Students share their opinions with MARY REESE BOYKIN.
18, 1998 graduate, Inglewood High School
I am not an athlete, and I don't think the 820 SAT score standard for athletes should be lowered.
If colleges are willing to lower the SAT score for athletes, I think that they should also lower scores for other students who contributed to their schools by spending time with clubs and organizations.
The ticket to making it in the world is to work hard, not to have a free ride. Athletes want to get privileges while other students work hard and are overlooked. Athletes should not put their hearts and souls into sports at the exclusion of studying.
Some of my friends are athletes. They show me that anybody can work their schedule so that they play sports and maintain good academic grades.
17, 1998 graduate, Beverly Hills High School
The qualifying SAT score should be lowered; one test does not measure a student's intelligence. The results of one day's testing should not be given the same weight as a student's four-year grade point average. I was sick the day that I took the SAT.
Some students are not good test-takers. I am not. My SAT score is 1180, equivalent to that of a student with a 3.0 grade point average rather than one with my 3.8 GPA. I didn't take any test preparation classes.
At Beverly Hills High School, many students take the Ivy West SAT prep course, which guarantees an increase of 200 points on the SAT or a free retaking of the course. A lot of black athletes can't afford the $750 for this type of test preparation. Why should they be judged negatively because they can't buy a skill?
I have worked hard the past four years to earn an athletic scholarship. In ninth and 10th grades, I thought I wasn't going to make it, but I balanced sports and homework. This year, I placed second at the state championship in the 300-meter hurdles.
I will attend Washington State University this fall on an athletic scholarship. My goal is to become a forensic pathologist.
A lot of athletes that I have competed with are left out because of their nonqualifying SAT scores. I hope the NCAA will lower the score so that more athletes will have a chance to get a college education.
18, 1998 graduate, Inglewood High School
Five years ago, the qualifying SAT score for athletes was 700. A lot of us can't pass the 820 score that is now required. My best score is 810.
I took the SAT again two weeks ago. I also took the American College Testing exam last week because I was told that black students generally do better on the ACT. I am hoping to pass both. I'm scared because passing the test is my ticket to a scholarship.
I know that many people feel that athletes who don't have qualifying scores are goof-offs. But that's not true for me. I have taken all of the core courses required by the NCAA; my current math class is trigonometry. I have maintained a 2.9 grade point average. I came to school every day, learned what was taught, was serious about all my responsibilities and took care of business.
At Inglewood High School, there is a proud tradition of boys' basketball players receiving scholarships to Division I schools. On the 1997 squad, five players received scholarships. On this year's team, three players received scholarships.
I was offered a scholarship to the University of Oregon with the stipulation that I pass the SAT. A couple of months ago when I showed the Oregon coach my SAT results, I was eliminated. I understood. The coach could not hold a spot for me that could go to a player with qualifying scores.
Ten points separate me from a dream coming true. If I don't pass, I might cry. But I will go to a junior college and later transfer to a four-year college.
17, junior, Dorsey High School
I don't think that the SAT qualifying score should be lowered. What's so difficult about maintaining a 2.5 grade point average and receiving an 820 on the SAT--a little more than half of the maximum 1,600 score? Lowering the score is ridiculous. It's like saying, "You made an F, but I will give you a C." It's making sure that the standards are so low that anyone can get in.
I feel that each time you take the test, your scores improve. You learn to search for the main idea to get the gist of what you read. Your process of elimination improves.
I know some students complain that it is difficult to juggle sports and academics. Some athletes get so wrapped up in their sport that they don't want to study. In my honors English and advanced placement history classes, there are few athletes.
I just don't see what is so hard about doing well in school and in sports at the same time.
17, 1998 graduate, Crenshaw High School
I have qualifying SAT scores, but I think the score should be lowered for athletes. I think this is particularly significant because in the inner city, many students have not been equipped with the tools to take the test.
The test is culturally biased. But many factors account for the poor performance of inner-city athletes: lack of quality teachers, lack of focus on the students' part for academics, failure of some parents to instill in their children the value of an education. I am fortunate because my parents have always made it clear that they value education, that they want me to go to college. This fall, I will attend USC.
At first, I played basketball for fun. Since 10th grade, I have played basketball to get an athletic scholarship. But I didn't get any offers that I wanted. A USC athletic scholarship is the only offer that would have interested me.
To prepare for the SAT, I took a six-week training session by the Princeton Review at the Kaiser Permanente Watts Community and Learning Center (course is offered for a nominal $30 fee). My mathematics score increased.
I have attended two high schools, and I know many athletes who could not get scholarships because of their SAT scores. They acted as if they were not disappointed, but people look down on you if you can't pass.
But there are some people who do not do well on tests. They have good work habits. They can hack it out in college, especially if they seek other resources, like tutoring.