Division I Graduation Rates On Rise

Sept. 29, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS - The entering Division I class of 1995 has set a new standard for graduation rates. According to the latest NCAA research, Division I student-athletes in the 1995 cohort posted a graduation rate of 60 percent, the highest total since the NCAA began calculating rates with the entering class of 1984.

The 60 percent clip keeps Division I student-athletes 2 percent higher than their student-body counterparts and is 2 percent higher than for the 1994 cohort. The graduation rate for the overall student body in 1995 also increased by 2 percent to 58 percent. The rate for student-athletes has been about 2 percent higher than for the student body for the last decade.

Notable -- but not necessarily causal -- in the jump for the 1995 cohort is that it is the same year in which the NCAA began requiring 13 core courses instead of 11 for eligibility. The last time such a jump in graduation rates occurred is for the 1986 cohort, the first for which core courses figured into the eligibility mix at all.

"It's impossible to say whether the increase in core courses has a causal relationship with the increase in graduation rates, but the two increases did happen concurrently," said Todd Petr, NCAA director of research.

Core courses are poised for another jump as early as 2003. The Division I Management Council and Board of Directors will consider a move from 13 to 14 required core courses later this fall for students entering on or before August 1, 2003. In addition, the Board has resolved to consider another increase -- perhaps to 15 or 16 -- in the near future if ongoing research supports such a change.

Also of note, the entering class for next year's Division I study will reflect the Association's current eligibility standards (the Prop 16 initial-eligibility index), which became effective in 1996.

Football, basketball improve

A sport-by-sport analysis of the 1995 cohort also reveals good news. Graduation rates for Division I student-athletes in football and men's basketball -- sports that have generated concern in recent years -- went up. Division I gridders graduated at a rate of 52 percent, up from 49 percent for the 1994 class, and male basketball players graduated at a rate of 43 percent, up from 40. Rates for white football players increased from 56 percent to 62 percent, and rates for black football players increased from 43 percent to 45 percent.

In basketball, rates for white males rebounded slightly from a 4 percent drop last year to a 1 percent gain for the 1994 cohort. The 53 percent rate, however, remains well below the 59 percent rate for white males in the student body. Black basketball players in the 1994 cohort graduated at a rate of 35 percent, the same as the 1993 cohort. Black males in the student body graduated at a 34 percent rate.

The poorest performance continues to be seen in Division I-A men's basketball, though that group showed improvement in the 1995 cohort. Overall, Division I-A men's basketball players graduated at a rate of 36 percent, up from 32. The rate for white male basketball players was 51 percent, while the rate for black male players was 28 percent, up from 24 for the 1994 cohort.

In Division I-A football, white players graduated at a rate of 62 percent, while blacks graduated at a rate of 46 percent. The rates for the Division I-A white and black male student body are 61 and 41, respectively.

In Division I-AA football, student-athletes graduated at a rate of 52 percent (62 percent for whites and 44 percent for blacks).

Women's rates remain up

Graduation rates in the 1995 cohort for women remain high -- 69 percent compared to 61 percent for the Division I female student body. Both white and black female student-athletes graduated at rates higher than their student-body counterparts -- 72 percent for whites (64 percent student body) and 60 percent for blacks (45 percent student body).

Rates in women's basketball were 69 percent for whites and 59 percent for blacks. The latter is 2 percent lower than for the 1994 cohort, yet higher than any other previous class since 1989. In Division I-A women's basketball, the rates were even better -- 71 percent for whites and 63 for blacks, compared to 66 and 50, respectively, for their student-body counterparts.

Division I and I-A women's track also showed high rates, with 70 percent for the Division I white cohort (69 percent in I-A), and 61 for the Division I black cohort (65 percent in I-A).

Divisions II and III

In Division II, student-athletes in the 1995 cohort once again graduated at a significantly higher rate than their student-body counterparts. Division II student-athletes graduated at a rate of 50 percent compared to the 45 percent rate posted by the student body. Some of the student-athlete success can be attributed to women's basketball student-athletes, who graduated at a rate of 58 percent for the 1995 cohort, up from 56 for the 1994 class.

Overall, Division II male student-athletes graduated at a rate of 45 percent, compared to 41 percent for the male student body, while female student-athletes graduated at a rate of 58 percent, compared to 48 percent for the female student body.

Division II football players graduated at a rate of 45 percent for the 1995 cohort, up from 39 percent for the 1994 class. The rate for men's basketball players, however, dropped from 46 percent to 44 percent for the 1995 class.

Comparisons are much more difficult in Division III because only those student-athletes who receive athletically related financial aid are tracked for the purposes of the graduation-rates study. Therefore, only those Division III student-athletes in sports in which the institution participates as a Division II or I member are recorded.

However, graduation rates for the Division III student body are available and can be used for a general comparison. For the 1995 Division III cohort, the overall student body graduated at a rate of 61 percent (57 percent for men and 63 percent for women).

As has been the case with all NCAA graduation-rates studies, the NCAA does not rank Divisions I, II or III institutions on a graduation-rate basis. Differences in institutional missions and philosophies preclude comparisons of that type.

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