Division I student-athletes make the grade

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

 

Division I student-athletes who entered college in 2006 earned their degrees at a rate of 82 percent - the highest ever.

The most recent one-year graduation figures are bolstered by football student-athletes competing in the Football Bowl Subdivision, who earned a 71 percent Graduation Success Rate, and African-American men’s basketball players, who graduated at a 68 percent rate – the highest ever for those groups. Each group gained one percentage point over the class that entered college in 2005.

“More student-athletes than ever before are earning their college degrees, and we are gratified to see our reform efforts impact the lives of those we serve,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “We have even higher expectations for the future, but we are proud of the progress we have made.”

Men’s basketball and football traditionally earn the lowest graduation rates among all sports.

Since the NCAA first began tracking the Graduation Success Rate with student-athletes who entered college in 1995, the rate has increased 8 percentage points. The rate for African-American student-athletes has gained 11 percentage points.

“We’re achieving great success through the Academic Performance Program, and our student-athletes, coaches and administrators are working together. They understand the program, and there are more student-athletes graduating,” said University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, chair of the Committee on Academic Performance.

Walter Harrison, chair of the Committee on Academic Performance, explains the most significant increases in student-athlete academic success.

Measured also as a four-year metric, the Graduation Success Rate for the most recent four graduating classes of all Division I student-athletes (entering college between 2003-2006) climbed to 81 percent. That figure is an all-time high for the NCAA, Emmert noted. Most demographic groups posted similar year-to-year rates, with the exception of African-American females who increased their GSR by two percentage points to 78 percent.

Many sports that experienced a down year in the data reported in 2012 have rebounded, with men’s basketball, Football Championship Subdivision football, men’s ice hockey, men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer all reporting gains.

More than 1,800 student-athletes who entered college in 2006 graduated within six years than otherwise would have otherwise had the GSR remained at the level it was for the 1995 cohort. Over the last 12 years, that means 11,388 more graduates due to the increase in the GSR.

The NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate includes transfer students and student-athletes who leave in good academic standing, unlike the federal graduation rate, which does not count transfers. The GSR and federal rate calculations measure graduation over six years from first-time college enrollment.

The federal graduation rate, while less inclusive than the GSR, provides the only measure of historic academic comparison between student-athletes and the general student body. By this standard, student-athletes consistently outperform nearly all their peers in the student body.

The latest data show that Division I student-athletes who entered college in 2006 equaled their highest federal graduation rate of 65 percent – 1 percentage point higher than the general student body at Division I institutions (Download the 2013 GSR and Fed Rends PDF).

Every student-athlete group is graduating at rates higher than their peers except for white males, who are 2 points behind their counterparts in the student body under the federal rate.

Federal rates also provide a longer look at student-athlete academic achievement. They were first collected with the 1984 entering class, and in the past nearly quarter century there has been significant upward trending.

The overall federal graduation rate for student-athletes remained steady at 65 percent. African-American male student-athletes graduate at a rate 9 percentage points higher than African-American males in the student body (49 percent vs. 40 percent), while African-American female student-athletes outpace their student body counterparts by 13 percentage points (62 percent vs. 49 percent).

“What I try to concentrate on when I look at these results is not the numbers but the human lives that have been impacted, the numbers of students who graduate from college now who, 10 or 12 years ago, because we didn’t have these policies in place, wouldn’t have graduated,” Harrison said.