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How does a move to the SEC affect MU's academics?

Monday, November 14, 2011 | 6:20 p.m. CST; updated 7:11 p.m. CST, Monday, November 14, 2011

COLUMBIA  — How a conference move to the Southeastern Conference might affect MU outside of the athletic realm is still unknown.

Academically, MU is similar to other SEC schools. Although the conference change won't affect academics now, the move might have academic consequences down the line, said Bradley Curs, associate professor of education and director of the Hook Center for Educational Leadership and District Renewal at MU.

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"They try to tie academics into it at times, but it's an athletics move," Curs said.

Before the SEC move became official, many in the news media speculated that the addition was beneficial for the SEC academically. The claim, fueled in part by the university's status as a member of the Association of American Universities, was that MU adds academic prowess to the conference.

The AAU is an association of 61 prestigious public and private universities, and membership is by invitation only. Members are approved based on recognition of their institution's high quality academic research and undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.

With the addition of MU and Texas A&M, the SEC doubles the number of AAU members in the conference, which already included the University of Florida and Vanderbilt University.

In terms of other academic measures, MU ranks similarly to SEC schools.

Twelve of the SEC's 14 schools are rated as institutions having "very high" research activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. MU's average ACT score, 26, and freshman to sophomore retention rates, 85 percent, are exactly the same as the SEC median scores. Retention rates refer to the percentage of full-time freshmen who return for their sophomore year.

But moving conferences won't change the quality or mission of MU's academics, Curs said.

"If you’re talking academics, it’s not even necessarily that the academic quality is going to change," Curs said. "It’s much more that the student body is going to change.”

Perhaps most important, Curs said, is Texas.

As a member of the Big 12, Missouri competes against four Texas universities. But in the SEC, Texas A&M will be Missouri's only Texas opponent.

Curs said not competing in Texas as much, and therefore not on Texas television as much, reduces the school's visibility in what has been an important recruiting ground.

"It's all about Texas," he said. "It's all about will the university be able to recruit students from Texas now that we’re not on TV in Texas as much?"

Curs said that it's going to take several years to see whether there's a shift from Texas toward the southeast in enrollment numbers, but that even then, the changes will only be subtle at first.

"I think that the only real shift will be in the students," Curs said. "Where the students come from and how you have that reputation for why a student would come to Mizzou."


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