DI college athletes reach 90% graduation rate
Rate for men’s basketball student-athletes climbs 4 percentage points
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.
A 4 percentage point increase in men’s basketball players earning a degree boosted the rate, including a 6 percentage point jump in the last year for Black men’s basketball student-athletes. The GSR for women’s basketball increased 2 points, with the rate among Black women’s basketball players rising 3 points.
“The commitment of Division I college athletes to the classroom is incredible, and we celebrate their academic success,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “To see 90% of student-athletes accomplish the ultimate goal of college graduation is a testament to their hard work and dedication. We must also support initiatives that help the remaining 10% of student-athletes earn their degrees. The NCAA applauds the achievements of student-athletes and will continue to support their goals in the classroom, in competition and in life.”
This year’s rate surpasses by 10 points the 80% goal set by former NCAA President Myles Brand in 2006.
Student-athletes who play football in the Football Championship Subdivision graduated at an 80% rate, an increase of 1 point and the highest rate ever for that group. Their peers in the Football Bowl Subdivision graduated at a rate of 81%, down 1 point from last year.
The GSR for Black student-athletes increased 1 point to 80%, while their white counterparts remained steady at 93%. College athletes who are of Hispanic/Latino descent graduated at a rate of 87%, the same as last year.
Women continued to demonstrate graduation success — only one women’s sport earned a rate that was below 90% (bowling, which posted an 84% GSR), and women’s ice hockey earned a perfect 100% GSR.
NCAA academic policies lead to more graduates
Division I members have adopted academic rule and policy changes intended to improve the academic performance of student-athletes. The success of those rule changes is clear: Over the past 19 years, 33,505 more college athletes graduated than would have had the GSR remained at 74%, the GSR the year it was introduced.
Just in 2020, the increase accounts for 3,872 more student-athlete graduates.
“We celebrate the achievement of Division I students engaged in intercollegiate athletics and their commitment to excellence in athletics and academics. The Committee on Academics remains deeply committed to supporting the success of our students, and I am grateful to the members of our Committee for their efforts,” said John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown, chair of the NCAA Board of Governors and chair of the Committee on Academics. “Our goal always remains the same — to see the number of college graduates continue to grow.”
Comparison with the student body
The Division I Board of Directors created the GSR in 2002 in response to Division I college and university presidents who wanted data that more accurately reflected the mobility of college students beyond what the federal graduation rate measures. The federal rate counts as an academic failure any student who leaves a school, even if the student enrolls at another school. Also, the federal rate does not recognize students who enter school as transfer students.
The GSR formula removes from the rate student-athletes who leave school while academically eligible and includes student-athletes who transfer to a school after initially enrolling elsewhere. This calculation provides a more accurate appraisal of student-athlete success.
The rate also allows for a deeper understanding of graduation success in individual sports than the federal metric, which provides only broad groupings.
The federal graduation rate, however, remains the only measure to compare student-athletes with the general student body. Using this measure, student-athletes graduate at the same rate as the student body: 69%. Both college athletes and their peers in the student body increased by 1 point in the past year.
In all major demographic groups except for white males, student-athletes graduated at higher rates than their peers in the student body (white males graduate at the same rate as their student body counterparts). Black male student-athletes had a 56% federal graduation rate, while 44% of Black males in the student body graduated. Black female student-athletes also outpaced their counterparts in the student body by 12 percentage points (66% to 54%).
Even though the rates in men’s basketball and FBS football trail the rates for all males in the student body, the rates for Black student-athletes in those sports are higher than Black males in the student body by 4 percentage points in basketball and 7 percentage points in FBS football.
Federal rates also provide a long-term picture of student-athlete academic achievement. The federal rate was first collected with the class that entered college in 1984, and the rate has continued to rise over the past 28 years. When rates were first collected, the general student body earned degrees at a rate higher than that of student-athletes.
The rate for all Division I college athletes has increased 17 points in that time. The class of Black student-athletes who entered in 1984 graduated at a 35% rate, per the federal calculation. That rate is now 59% for the 2013 entering class.
DII student-athletes increase graduation rates
Four-year average Academic Success Rate rises to 74%, while single-year ASR hits all-time high of 77%
Division II graduation rates increased to 74%, a 1-point increase from last year’s rate, according to the most recent Academic Success Rate data.
Similar to Division I’s Graduation Success Rate, the Division II ASR includes transfers into a school in the calculation and removes students who left school while academically eligible. The ASR also includes the more than 32,000 nonscholarship student-athletes who enrolled from 2010 through 2013, the four years covered in the most recent data.
The Division II national four-year average ASR increased to 74%, while the single-year ASR for student-athletes who enrolled in 2013 increased 2 points to 77%, an all-time high for single-year rates. Nine women’s sports and 11 men’s sports saw improvements in their four-year ASRs.
“The increase in graduation rates further demonstrate that Division II student-athletes are just as committed to their academic success as they are to their athletic success, and we applaud them for their dedication and achievements,” said Terri Steeb Gronau, NCAA vice president of Division II. “These increases also demonstrate the dedication of our Division II member schools to providing college athletes with opportunities to succeed not only on the field, but in the classroom and in life. I extend my congratulations and thanks to our member schools for all the work they are doing to support college athletes and the division’s Life in the Balance philosophy.”
Even when using the less-inclusive federal graduation rates, student-athletes are outperforming their peers in the general student population by 9%, while selecting degree programs that largely mirror those chosen by the general student body. For Division II athletes who entered college in 2013, the federal rate increased 1 percentage point to 62%, and the general student body increased 1 point to 53%.
The NCAA GSR (Division I) and ASR (Division II and Division III) were formed when presidents and chancellors in all three NCAA divisions called for the Association to develop a measure of graduation success that better reflects transfer patterns and the population of student-athletes in higher education.
Division III student-athletes continue academic success
Schools were required to submit Academic Success Rates and federal graduation rates for the first time
In its first year, Division III required the submission of Academic Success Rates and federal graduation rates for student-athletes, member schools reported marks as high as the previous year, when reporting was voluntary.
The national four-year average ASR for Division III stands at 87%, consistent with the 2019 data when 60% of schools voluntarily reported.
Division III’s Academic Success Rate is similar to Division I’s Graduation Success Rate and Division II’s ASR, as it includes transfers in the calculation and accounts for students who left school while academically eligible. Division III is now in its 11th year of collecting student-athlete graduation rates.
Even when using the less inclusive federal graduation rates, Division III student-athletes outperform their peers in the general student body. The four-class average federal rate for athletes was 68%, and the federal rate for the overall student body was 63%.
“We’ve known for years Division III member schools are getting it done in the classroom based on the representative samples of ASR data we received each year,” said Dan Dutcher, vice president of Division III. “I am thrilled, but not surprised, to see those high-performing scores remain with full division participation. I applaud all Division III schools for supporting the success of college athletes in and out of the classroom.”
At the 2019 NCAA Convention, the Division III membership passed a proposal requiring all schools to submit student-athlete graduation rates data to the NCAA on an annual basis. For more sports coverage, click here.