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Summary of Division II Academic Success Rates

When the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) was developed for Division I, the membership in Divisions II and III began to wonder whether a similar methodology could apply to them, even though the characteristics of membership are different in each division.

Division I student-athletes are more likely than their Division II counterparts to receive a full athletics grant-in-aid. In Division II, grants are based on a partial-scholarship model, whereby many student-athletes receive a portion of athletics-based aid, but few get a “full ride.” Division II also has a great number of student-athletes who participate in sports without receiving any athletics-based aid at all.

For Division II graduation rates, then, the NCAA in 2006 developed the Academic Success Rate (ASR), which is similar to the Division I GSR but also includes freshmen who did not receive athletics aid but did participate in athletics. As the GSR does in Division I, the ASR in Division II reveals student-athlete graduation rates that are much higher than those recorded by the federal methodology.

The most recent Academic Success Rate for the incoming class of 2008 reveals that 72 percent of Division II student-athletes graduate within six years of initial enrollment. The four-year rolling ASR for the 2005-08 classes is 71 percent.

There’s no comparable rate for the student body, but even using the federal methodology, Division II student-athletes in the entering class of 2008 graduated at rates higher (55 percent compared to 49 percent for the most recent cohort) than their student-body peers.

Academic Success Rates in Division II from year to year, while impressive, typically aren’t as high as they are in Divisions I and III, though they’re always higher than graduation rates from the general student body (as is also the case in the other two divisions). Much of the reason for that divisional difference is that the academic missions of many Division II institutions cater to nontraditional students and families that may not have a long lineage of higher education attendance.

To demonstrate the positive effect that athletics participation has on academic performance at DII schools, the gap in graduation rates between Division II student-athletes and the general student body is almost always much wider than it is in Division I. For the most recent cohort, the student-athlete federal rate was six points higher than the student-body rate, while just two percentage points separated the two cohorts in Division I.

More findings

A breakdown of data by gender for the entering class of 2008 also reveals student-athlete success. The federal rate for male student-athletes was 47 percent, compared with 45 percent for male students. For women, student-athletes posted a 64 percent federal rate as opposed to 53 percent for female students. The ASRs for men and women student-athletes in the entering class of 2008 were 64 percent and 85 percent, respectively.

Those patterns emerged for other demographics, as well.

As for the ASR by sport, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, tennis and swimming were among the men’s sports posting four-year rolling ASRs above the overall DII ASR of 71 percent. Every women’s sport exceeded the divisional average, including rowing, field hockey, lacrosse, golf, swimming, volleyball and tennis, all of which were 85 percent or higher.

Division II also acquired some valuable longitudinal graduation-rates data in a 2010 study of former student-athletes 10 years removed from their athletics eligibility. Of the 5,400 survey respondents, 89 percent of them said they earned their bachelor’s degree within 10 years of their initial enrollment in college. Fifty percent earned that degree in four years or less. The 89 percent figure is 17 percentage points better than the single-year Academic Success Rate for the most recent entering class of 2008.