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Academic outcomes for Division I postgraduate student-athletes

As progress-toward-degree standards (and summer school availability) have increased in Division I, more student-athletes (SAs) are completing their undergraduate degree with athletics eligibility remaining. Seven years ago, 1.4% (N=1,330) of all Division I SAs were “postgraduates” pursuing graduate degrees, second majors/degrees, or general post-baccalaureate coursework. Today, 2.0% of SAs (N=2,185) compete as postgraduates. Football and M/W basketball have seen growth at a higher rate—nearly 4% of participants in those sports are postgraduates.

Are postgraduates academically successful? An NCAA study conducted during summer 2015 (89% of Division I schools participated) provided answers:

  • 73% of postgraduates enter graduate programs; the others pursue a second undergraduate major/degree or general post-baccalaureate coursework. Overall, only 15% of postgraduates are graduate transfers. 32% of postgraduates in men’s basketball are graduate transfers.
  • Graduate transfers graduate at a lower rate (51%) than graduate students who remain at their undergraduate school (62%). Statistical modeling shows this difference holds even after controlling for sport, conference and aid availability. Only 23% of postgraduates pursuing a second undergraduate major/degree complete that work.
  • Postgraduate academic completion rates were lowest in football and men’s basketball.
  • Schools vary in whether they offer postgraduates some form of athletics aid to continue their studies after their eligibility has expired. Controlling for sport and institution type, we see that postgraduates who are offered post-eligibility athletics aid are significantly more likely to graduate than those who do not receive aid.
Program Type Overall Football Men’s Basketball
  % of Postgrads Estimated # Per Year Two-Year Grad % % of Postgrads Estimated # Per Year Two-Year Grad % % of Postgrads Estimated # Per Year Two-Year Grad %
(general coursework)
8% 162 14% 96 6% 9
(2nd degree or major)
18% 350 23% 24% 166 15% 17% 26 13%
Graduate student
(same institution)
58% 1,126 62% 52% 356 50% 45% 68 43%
Graduate transfer 15% 296 51% 10% 66 28% 32% 45 34%


Download a copy of this Extra Point: Academic outcomes for Division I postgraduate student-athletes

Download the full study results: Academic attainment of Division I student-athletes who compete as postgraduates

(Published October 2015)

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