Graduation Rates

DI college athletes reach 90% graduation rate

Nine out of 10 student-athletes who started college in 2013 earned degrees, according to the latest Division I Graduation Success Rate data released today by the NCAA. That represents the highest rate ever and an increase of 1 percentage point over the rate for students who entered school in 2012.

DI student-athletes graduate at record high rates

More student-athletes than ever are graduating from college, according to the most recent Division I Graduation Success Rate. The single-year rate for student-athletes who enrolled in college in 2012 increased one percentage point to 89%, the highest ever.

College athletes graduate at record high rates

More Division I student-athletes than ever are earning their degrees, according to new Graduation Success Rate data released today. The most recent rate is 88 percent, a record high and an increase of 1 percentage point from 2017 numbers.

Division I Graduation Rates Database

DI African-American student-athletes graduate at record rates

Division I student-athletes in nearly all sports and demographics improved their graduation rates, most notably a 3 percentage point increase for African-Americans in all sports, which contributed to a record-high 87 percent Graduation Success Rate.

Summary of Division III Academic Success Rates

Beginning this year Division III institutions were required to submit student-athlete graduation information. At the 2019 national convention, Division III passed a proposal to make graduation-rate collection for student-athletes a division-wide policy. A census of graduation rates affords the membership an opportunity to conduct comprehensive self-assessment and benchmarking via the Institutional Performance Program (IPP) where the rates will be housed.  Additional research on trends and graduation rates is ongoing.

Division III launched the Academic Reporting Program in 2010, a voluntary data collection of student-athlete graduation information.  Division III schools were not required to report rates specifically for student-athletes, although they still had to fulfill the federal reporting requirement for the student body.  The voluntary program allowed for the calculation of Federal Graduation Rate and Academic Success Rate for Division III student-athletes.  The student-athlete cohort for both rates include non-scholarship, mid-year enrollee and transfer student-athletes. The difference in calculation is the Academic Success Rate accounts for student-athletes that separate from the institution prior to graduation while academically eligible to compete where the Federal Graduation Rate does not.

Between 2010 and 2019 as part of the Academic Reporting Program, 74% of the Division III membership participated at some point. In 2019, 264 institutions (60%) of the membership submitted data, the most ever.  The voluntary sample is representative of the division – that is, the pool of schools submitting data was proportionate to the makeup of the division as far as public/private, enrollment size and geographic location. Findings from the voluntary Academic Reporting Program will be reported in conjunction with findings from the newly required program.

With the first year of required reporting, the data continues to result in student-athlete Federal Graduation Rates higher than those of the student bodies at those schools – 68% versus 63%. The ASR, which accounts for student-athletes that separate from their institution prior to graduation and while academically eligible to compete, remains at 87%, the same level for the past six years.

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 2013 reveals that 77% of Division II student-athletes graduate within six years of initial enrollment. The four-year rolling ASR for the 2010-13 classes is 74%.

There’s no comparable rate for the student body, but even using the federal methodology, Division II student-athletes in the entering class of 2013 graduated at rates higher (62% compared to 53% 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 nine points higher than the student body rate, while student-athletes had the same rate as the general student body in Division I.

More findings

A breakdown of data by gender for the entering class of 2013 also reveals student-athlete success. The federal rate for male student-athletes was 54%, compared with 48% for male students. For women, student-athletes posted a 70% federal rate as opposed to 56% for female students. The ASRs for men and women student-athletes in the entering class of 2013 were 69% and 88%, respectively.

As for the ASR by sport, baseball, golf, ice hockey, soccer, swimming, tennis and volleyball were among the men’s sports posting four-year rolling ASRs above the overall DII ASR of 74%. Every women’s sport exceeded the divisional average, including cross country/track, field hockey, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, swimming, tennis and volleyball, all of which were 85% 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% 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% figure is 12 percentage points better than the single-year Academic Success Rate for the most recent entering class of 2013.

Why the GSR is a Better Methodology

The methodology for calculating the federal rate comes from the Student Right-to-Know Act passed in November 1990. It is limited in who it tracks, but the Department of Education has held onto this methodology to this day.

Under this federal formula, student-athlete cohorts must consist only of first-time, full-time freshmen entering in a given fall term while receiving athletically related financial aid. Student-athletes not receiving such aid at entry and those who transfer into the institution are not included in the cohort. In addition, transfers out of any school are...

NCAA Graduation Rates: A Quarter-Century of Tracking Academic Success

It’s been almost 25 years since the NCAA first began collecting and publishing student-athlete graduation rates, and in all but two of them – the first two, actually – the data show student-athlete rates consistently surpass those of their student-body counterparts.

In January 1990, the NCAA membership passed legislation requiring schools to report rates disaggregated by race, gender and sport (specifically, football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and men’s and women’s track/cross country). The vote at the 1990 NCAA Convention preceded by about 10 months the U.S. Congress’...

Division III student-athletes continue academic success

Division III student-athletes continue to graduate at higher rates than their peers in the student-body, according to the most recent NCAA Academic Success Rate data.


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