Good point. Being surrounded with people who value education and come from varied cultures with different value systems can be an enriching experience in and of itself. Whether a player with a less than privileged background grows up to move to another big city... or returns to his childhood neighborhood at some point-- if he's open minded-- the experiences can still be valuable in shaping his outlook and how he participates in society. Like you, I suspect that players who have such opportunities are more likely to give their children a little more positive guidance to take full advantage of similar opportunities if they can. That would be an interesting study.
When I posted the graduation rates bit on the first page, I put the qualifier out that the value of such statistics was questionable. I knew someone (Tom Bronco) would summarily try to say it is "meaningless", when it's not.
The higher than average graduation rates don't mean everything is great and LSU's athletes are all academic all-americans. Like any other segment of the student population there will be a curve:
1) Student athletes who are genuinely smart and take every advantage to become educated and will apply their education.
2) Student athletes who are ok students, who won't be innovators or leaders in their field, but who will still benefit by having a degree and be qualified for a wider range of jobs and be able to better provide for their family.
3) Middle ground
4) Those who make it through but don't make any use at all of a degree... but who still might urge their own kids to do better someday.
5) Those who flunk out, get suspended, kicked off the team and out of school, etc.
How is this unlike any other segment of the student population? There are plenty of stupid privileged kids who graduate and will never use their degrees meaningfully either.
LSU has one of the best graduation rates in the SEC, and while that doesn't mean the players are all good students, it means the university must be making some effort to keep the students engaged and improving their prospects-- at least a little-- for whatever comes after college.
Even looking at what I described as the bottom tier-- those who get in trouble and don't make it for whatever reason, there is better opportunity. Just look at Tyrann Matheiu. He had issues and didn't make it, but met some great people who helped him. I think Tyrann gave credit to Coach Miles and a couple of other people who tried to mentor him; but he also became friends with Patrick Peterson, who has been a great ambassador for LSU. And Peterson took him under his wing, helped him straighten his life out, and look at him now. I know some on here are still haters, but I will point blank say Tyrann's life at this moment is better for having gone to LSU (and LSU benefited from him as well). I'm not arguing what might have been if he went to another school... he probably still would've had football success, he might not have. I doubt he would've gotten the Heisman-type exposure almost anywhere else; he was a dynamic player who was used perfectly here... on what was arguably the best defense in the country. But beyond that, once he got in trouble, it was the people who he met-- at LSU-- that cared about him enough to help him take take the next step. I think it's less likely he would've bounced back had he gone elsewhere.
Reading level and graduation rate stats tell a piece of a story. I'm not going to spin them into something they aren't. I do think athletes on the whole do gain valuable experiences in college, and some use these experiences to enrich their lives. And if the usefulness of graduation rates is questionable, it is still better to be at the top of that list than it is at the bottom. It is good for the school and it is appealing to the prospective student athletes and parents. It is not meaningless.