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Explaining the Graduation Success Rate data: Even though Graduation Success Rates for Division I football and men’s basketball jumped in the most recent study, the overall Division I GSR didn’t change much. Read more »

View the database for DI GSR, DII ASR, FGR, APR and DI Head Coach APR: Find out how your favorite school, conference or sport fared. Read more »

Trends in Graduation Success Rates and Federal Graduation Rates at NCAA Division I Institutions: PDF from NCAA Research Staff. Read more »

Trends in Academic Success Rates and Federal Graduation Rates at NCAA Division II Institutions: PDF from NCAA Research Staff. Read more »

Press conference audio recording from Oct. 27, 2010: Learn more about graduation rates. Listen here »

NCAA grad rate a success by any measure: Graduation Success Rate is one that college and university presidents believe is more useful than the methodology used to produce the federal graduation rate. Read more »

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Publish date: Oct 27, 2010

Grad rates hit high marks

Division I student-athletes continue to set high marks for graduation, and football and men’s basketball players and minority students are posting significant improvement, according to the latest data from the NCAA.

The Graduation Success Rate for student-athletes who began college in 2003 is 79 percent. While this rate matches the GSR for the past two years and continues to be the highest ever in Division I, it has risen five points in nine years of GSR collection.  

The average Graduation Success Rate for the last four graduating classes also is 79 percent, matching last year’s GSR for the four-year cohort.

NCAA President Mark Emmert stressed that the data continue to help erase the perception of the so-called “dumb jock.”

“Our work toward enhancing the opportunities for student-athletes to be successful academically isn’t finished, but we continue to make progress,” said Emmert, who took over as NCAA president Oct. 5 after a lengthy career as a university president and chancellor at multiple Division I institutions. “Our student-athletes are engaged on their campuses, they are competing hard in all that they do, and there are achieving important successes on and off the field and court.”

Using the federal government’s methodology, which does not count transfer students and is less accurate than the GSR, Division I student-athletes who entered college in 2003 graduated at 64 percent, still the highest federal rate ever and one point higher than the general student body. 

Although the federal rate for student-athletes has remained consistent the past two years, it has risen four points in the past nine years and 12 points since the rate was first calculated in 1984. It is the only measure to compare student-athlete graduation with the general student body.

The GSR and federal rate calculations measure graduation in a six-year time frame from initial college enrollment.

Although a modest concern was identified last year in football’s graduation rates, Emmert said he is encouraged by the latest progress in the Football Bowl Subdivision. In just one year’s time, FBS football student-athletes raised their GSR by three points to 69 percent.

“Given the large number of students we are measuring each year, any increase in graduation rates is remarkable, so this improvement is particularly noteworthy,” Emmert said.

Another bright spot from the GSR data is the significant academic progress over time by men’s basketball student-athletes, Emmert said. While unchanged from the last year, the GSR for men’s basketball has risen 10 points in the past nine years to 66 percent.

Emmert added he was especially pleased with the growing academic success of minority students in football and men’s basketball in particular and overall. The data show dramatic improvements both in the past year and in the nine years of GSR data.

For example, Emmert noted the GSR for African-American men’s basketball players jumped three points over the past year alone and hit 60 percent for the first time. That same rate has increased 14 points since GSR was first collected nine years ago. In football, the GSR for African-American student-athletes has jumped eight points over the nine-year period.

Overall, the GSR for African-American student-athletes and African-American male student-athletes has climbed eight points in nine years, to 64 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

“These are not just numbers,” Emmert said. “These figures represent additional young people who are succeeding in the classroom and reaching their goals of graduation.”

Emmert estimated there are approximately 300 more African-American male student-athletes who graduated compared to last year.

Walter Harrison, chair of the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance and president of the University of Hartford, emphasized that the latest cohort of students was the first to be subject to all of the NCAA’s latest academic reform efforts.

These include the implementation of the yearly Academic Progress Rate; increased initial eligibility standards; and more stringent progress-toward-degree requirements. 

“In many ways, our work has just begun,” Harrison said. “As the culture of academic reform grows stronger each year, we will see more and more improvement.”

Key findings from the graduation-rate data include the following:

  • GSR for entering class of 2003: 79 percent
  • GSR for entering classes of 2000-2003: 79 percent
  • 2000-2003 GSR for male student-athletes: 72 percent
  • 2000-2003 GSR for female student-athletes: 87 percent
  • Federal graduation rate for student-athletes who started college in 2003: 64 percent
  • Federal graduation rate for general students who started college in 2003: 63 percent

The NCAA developed the Graduation Success Rate as part of its academic reform initiative to more accurately assess the academic success of student-athletes. The rate holds institutions accountable for transfer students, unlike the federal graduation rate. The Graduation Success Rate also accounts for midyear enrollees and is calculated for every sport.

Under the calculation, institutions are not penalized for outgoing transfer students who leave in good academic standing.  The outgoing transfers are essentially passed to the receiving institution’s Graduation Success Rate cohort.

By counting incoming transfer students and midyear enrollees, the Graduation Success Rate increases the total number of student-athletes tracked for graduation by more than 36 percent. The NCAA also calculates the federal graduation rate for student-athletes. It is the only rate by which to compare student-athletes to the general student body.

The most recent Division I Graduation Success Rates are based on the four entering classes from 2000-2001 through 2003-04. Nearly 105,000 student-athletes are included in the most recent four classes using the GSR methodology, as compared to slightly fewer than 77,000 in the federal rate.

This year marks the ninth year that GSR data have been collected. The NCAA began collecting these data with the entering freshmen class of 1995.

The NCAA also has released the latest Division II graduation rate data, including the division’s Academic Success Rate. This is the fifth year the NCAA has released the Division II ASR, which is similar to the Division I GSR and also includes student-athletes not receiving athletically related financial aid.

The latest figures show a 73 percent ASR for the Division II entering class of 2003, the highest rate to date. Even when using the less-inclusive federal rate, Division II student-athletes perform significantly better than the general student body. The federal rate for Division II student-athletes is 56 percent, nine percentage points higher than the overall student body at Division II colleges and universities.

Division III student-athletes are not covered by the federal graduation rate methodology, because it only includes student-athletes who receive athletics financial aid.  Therefore, the data for Division III are used to analyze success rates within the student bodies.  In all, students who entered Division III institutions in the fall of 2003 showed a federal graduation rate of 65 percent, while the latest four-year average is 63 percent.

The Division III Presidents Council in 2009 approved exploring the possibility of calculating graduation rate and academic-success rates for Division III student-athletes. A pilot program using graduation-rate data collected from volunteering institutions began this past spring. Results are expected later this fall.