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Rates on the Rise

November 19, 2009

Whichever way you choose to count, athletes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I and II are graduating at higher rates.

The NCAA on Wednesday published its annual graduation rates reports, in which the association is increasingly focusing on its measure of choice, the NCAA-created Graduation Success Rate, which association officials say more accurately portrays the actual performance of athletes than does the federal graduation rate, because it includes students who transfer in to a particular institution and excludes those who transfer out of that college in good academic standing.

Not unimportantly, though, in almost all cases the Graduation Success Rates for given universities are higher than their federal graduation rates.

The latest data, which look at how many athletes who entered college in 2002 had earned degrees within six years, produce a Graduation Success Rate of 79 percent for all Division I athletes, the same as the previous class reported last year. The equivalent federal graduation rate for Division I for this year is 64 percent, also the same as in 2008. All students at NCAA Division I colleges graduated at a six-year federal rate of 62 percent, the NCAA said; there is no comparable figure for all students to the Graduation Success Rate.

Division II athletes, meanwhile, had an Academic Success Rate (the division's equivalent of the GSR, which includes non-scholarship athletes) of 71 percent, comparable to last year and up from 70 percent the previous two years. The federal graduation rate for Division II was 55 percent.

NCAA officials heralded the continued improvement in graduation rates, which they attributed at least in part to the emphasis the association has placed in recent years -- especially under the leadership of the late Myles Brand -- on changing the rules and the culture to focus on athletes' classroom performance.

Academic success is "a far more important priority for our coaches, our staffs, and our athletes than ever before," and the improving graduation outcomes reinforce that, said Walt Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chair of the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance, which helped craft the academic rules.

Harrison said he expected the improvement to continue next year because the 2003 class will be the first that will have entered with the NCAA's new academic rules formally in place -- rules that toughened the requirements athletes must meet to stay eligible to compete in sports.

Harrison and Jim Isch, who became the NCAA's acting president after Brand's death, said they were particularly heartened that the association has managed to move the needle on graduation rates for baseball and men's basketball players, which have historically lagged to the point that the NCAA created special panels to focus on those sports' academic outcomes.

As seen in the table below, athletes in both of those sports have shown sizable gains in their Graduation Success Rate since 1995, when the NCAA began using that statistic. Association officials expressed mild concern about a slight decline in the Graduation Success Rate in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the most competitive playing level, where the federal rate dropped to 54.8 percent this year from 56 last year.

Sport Graduation Success Rate,
Entering Class of 1995
Graduation Success Rate,
Entering Class of 2002
Federal Rate,
Class of 2002
Baseball 65.3% 69.9% 48.8%
Basketball (Men's) 55.8 65.5
50.8
Basketball (Women's) 79.8 82.8 64.2
Bowling (Women's) 100.0 86.4 54.2
Crew/Rowing (Women's) 89.6 92.0 79.6
Cross Country/Track (Men's) 72.1 74.6 58.6
Cross Country/Track (Women's) 82.4 85.3 70.7
Fencing (Men's) 100.0 81.0 64.3
Fencing (Women's) 86.7 100.0 100.0
Field Hockey 92.9 94.1 83.6
Football - Bowl Subdivision 63.1 65.9 54.8
Football - Championship Subdivision 62.0 65.7 56.5
Golf (Men's) 77.0 80.6 66.3
Golf (Women's) 88.3 89.4 73.8
Gymnastics (Men's) 76.4 85.7 83.3
Gymnastics (Women's) 93.1 92.9 82.9
Ice Hockey (Men's) 78.0 79.2 58.5
Ice Hockey (Women's) 85.7 89.8 67.6
Lacrosse (Men's) 91.2 83.0 67.7
Lacrosse (Women's) 93.9 92.9 82.5
Rifle (Men's) 84.2 80.0 60.0
Rifle (Women's) 66.7 82.1 67.9
Skiing (Men's) 84.2 85.0 90.0
Skiing (Women's) 100.0 95.0 76.5
Soccer (Men's) 74.3 77.7 57.9
Soccer (Women's) 86.1 88.6 70.8
Softball 82.3 85.7 69.5
Swimming (Men's) 81.0 81.3 75.9
Swimming (Women's) 90.8 91.7 69.7
Tennis (Men's) 84.7 86.5 68.3
Tennis (Women's) 85.7 88.5 70.9
Volleyball (Men's) 72.9 67.3 59.6
Volleyball (Women's) 83.2 89.2 69.1
Water Polo (Men's) 94.6 85.7 70.6
Water Polo (Women's) 100.0 91.0 79.1
Wrestling 61.5 71.8 57.2

The NCAA's Web site provides databases containing college-by-college data for Division I and for Division II.

The tables below show those institutions that had the biggest gaps between their federal graduation rates for athletes and for all students. This first one shows those institutions where the rate for athletes in 2002 was at least 20 points higher than for all students; colleges on this list tend to admit most or all of the students who apply, and athletes are less likely to drop out for financial reasons than their student bodies at large:

  Federal Graduation Rate for All Students, 2002 Entering Class Federal Graduation Rate for Athletes, 2002 Entering Class Percentage Points by Which Athlete Rate Exceeds All-Student Rate
University of New Orleans 22% 94% 72
Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus 18 70 52
Cleveland State University 26 74 48
Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis 32 70 38
University of Maryland- Eastern Shore 38 75 37
Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne 21 57 36
Coastal Carolina University 47 80 33
Coppin State University 16 47 31
Eastern Kentucky University 37 68 31
University of Texas at El Paso 31 62 31
Wright State University 43 74 31
University of Hartford 54 84 30
Austin Peay State University 32 60 28
Middle Tennessee State University 45 73 28
Southern University, Baton Rouge 29 57 28
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 42 70 28
Tennessee State University 35 62 27
University of Akron 35 62 27
University of Arkansas at Little Rock 23 50 27
University of Southern Mississippi 43 70 27
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale 45 71 26
Texas Southern University 13 38 25
University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff 28 53 25
Lamar University 32 56 24
Youngstown State University 35 59 24
Alabama State University 21 44 23
Idaho State University 26 48 22
Jacksonville State University 33 55 22
Delaware State University 35 56 21
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Metropolitan campus 36 57 21
University of Memphis 38 59 21
University of Texas at San Antonio 28 49 21
Portland State University 34 54 20
Utah State University 53 73 20
Western Michigan University 55 75 20

This table shows those colleges at which the rates for all students exceeded those for athletes by at least 10 points. This list tends to be dominated by academically competitive colleges at which athletes often enter with lesser academic credentials than the student body at large:

  Federal Graduation Rate for All Students, 2002 Entering Class Federal Graduation Rate for Athletes, 2002 Entering Class Percentage Points by Which All-Student Rate Exceeds Athlete Rate
Iona College 63 53 10
Texas Christian University 69 59 10
University of Connecticut 76 66 10
Bradley University 78 67 11
Georgetown University 93 82 11
Howard University 66 55 11
Rice University 93 82 11
San Diego State University 61 50 11
Texas State University-San Marcos 54 43 11
State University of New York at Binghamton 80 68 12
Stony Brook University 61 49 12
University of Evansville 63 51 12
University of Illinois, Champaign 82 70 12
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 86 74 12
University of the Pacific 68 56 12
Clemson University 79 66 13
James Madison University 82 69 13
Saint Francis University (Pennsylvania) 56 43 13
Santa Clara University 85 71 14
University of Arizona 57 43 14
University of San Francisco 67 53 14
St. Mary's College of California 65 50 15
Vanderbilt University 89 74 15
University of Maryland, College Park 82 66 16
Florida State University 70 53 17
Texas A&M University, College Station 78 61 17
University of Southern California 88 71 17
Baylor University 73 55 18
Centenary College (Louisiana) 60 42 18
University of Delaware 80 62 18
University of South Carolina, Columbia 67 49 18
Duquesne University 72 53 19
North Carolina State University 71 51 20
University of Georgia 79 59 20
University of Virginia 93 73 20
Alcorn State University 40 19 21
Georgia Institute of Technology 77 56 21
University of California, Los Angeles 89 68 21
University of Florida 82 61 21
Gonzaga University 81 59 22
University of Wisconsin, Madison 81 59 22
University of Colorado, Boulder 67 44 23
University of Michigan 88 65 23
Florida International University 49 25 24
University of Texas at Austin 78 53 25
University of California, Irvine 81 50 31

Source: NCAA

 

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