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Graduation rates ­- Does a point matter?

The Division I Graduation Success Rate (GSR) has risen 10% since 2001.  That sounds impressive, but what does it actually mean? 

Since the average size of recent GSR cohorts is about 23,500 student-athletes, an increase of 1% equates to 235 additional graduates.  The 10-point gap between the current year’s GSR and 2001’s means that there are about 2,400 more graduates this year than would have been the case without that increase.

The accompanying graph shows the number of graduates added each year since the NCAA started collecting GSR data.

The green line represents the number of graduates we would have seen had the GSR stayed at the 2001-level across that entire time period (those numbers on the green line increase over time because the number of student-athletes in Division I has been increasing). 

The blue line represents the actual number of annual Division I graduates.  If you add the blue-green differences across each year, you will see that GSR increases over this span have led to almost 14,000 additional graduates than would have been the case if the GSR observed in 2001 had not changed.

Given what we know about the significant advantages that accrue to college graduates, the lives of those 14,000 new graduates were likely impacted in very positive ways.

Notes: A graduation year of 2013 refers to the end of the 6-year federally-defined window for graduation calculations for a student entering college in fall 2007.  The 2013 graduation year data were released in October 2014 and represent the most current NCAA data available.

Download a PDF copy of this Extra Point: Graduation rates - Does a point matter?

(Originally published October 2013. Updated November 2014.)