The NCAA, which governs collegiate athletics on a national scale, announced today that 86 percent of student-athletes who entered college in the fall of 2008 had graduated, a number that represents the highest “graduation rate” ever reported by the NCAA.
The association credited higher academic standards for the increase, but we note that the NCAA uses a generous formula when computing graduation rates, at least compared to that used for computing the federal graduation rate.
Still, athletes graduated at a higher rate than the general student body—67 percent of Division I athletes, compared to 65 percent of the general student body—and athletes at Football Bowl Subdivision colleges graduated at an even higher rate, 75 percent. That number is unchanged from the number reported for the class that entered in 2007.
“Student-athletes continue to make important gains in the classroom, and the NCAA and its member schools are thrilled with their success,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert in a press release. “We also are proud of the role academic reforms have played in helping students earn their degrees. We will continue to support rules and policies that encourage students to progress toward graduation.”
Academic reforms at the NCAA
During the past 12 years, the graduation rate for African-American males, as computed by the NCAA, rose 18 points to 69 percent, while the rate for African-American females increased 12 points to 83 percent.
Since 1995, academic standards for Division I college athletes improved multiple times, with increases in initial eligibility standards, progress-toward-degree standards, and the creation of the Academic Progress Rate, a more real-time mechanism to track a student-athlete’s academic success than graduation rates.
“The APR, the standards we’ve set for all of the different Division I members, are working. We are moving in the right direction,” said Roderick J McDavis, president of Ohio University and chair of the Division I Committee on Academics. “Ultimately, the real significance of this is that more student-athletes are graduating from college, and that’s good news.”