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Prevalence of Graduate Transfer in Division I

Division I student-athletes continue to earn their undergraduate degrees in record numbers, and many are doing so in four years or less due to NCAA academic progress-toward-degree standards, expanded financial aid opportunities for summer coursework and college credits earned while in high school. This has led to more student-athletes completing their undergraduate degree requirements before exhausting their athletics eligibility. These postgraduate students may continue to compete in NCAA sports if they enroll in graduate coursework or a second degree program. In 2019, 3,512 postgraduates — just over 3% of nearly 113,000 student-athletes in the 2019 Division I Academic Progress Rate cohort — competed for Division I teams.

While NCAA research has found that most postgraduates remain at the same college, they have been able to participate in athletics as a graduate student at another Division I college if they meet certain criteria (NCAA Bylaw 14.6.1) or obtain an NCAA waiver. These enrollment restrictions will change in 2020-21. In April 2020, the Division I Council adopted legislation to permit postgraduates to seek a second undergraduate degree or enroll in general coursework if they transfer to a new institution.

How many graduate transfers are there? From 2014 to 2019, the number of such participants has more than doubled. However, there were only 706 graduate transfers identified in the 2019 Division I APR cohort, which equates to 0.6%.

Graduate transfers are most prevalent on a percentage basis in men’s basketball (2.7% of current players are graduate transfers), women’s basketball, football, and men’s and women’s track and field. In 2019, 1% of men’s football student-athletes were graduate transfers. However, the number of such individuals has more than tripled in the past five years. Trends across all Division I sports are shown in the full study results.

Download the full study results: Changes in the Number of Division I Graduate Transfers

Download a PDF copy of this Extra Point: Prevalence of Graduate Transfer in Division I

(Published Oct. 2016. Updated June 2020)

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