National Graduation Rates Remain Above Student Norms
Sept. 10, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A sharp increase in the graduation rates of Division I black female basketball players -- the single-largest increase ever -- highlights the NCAA's most recent graduation-rates report for the entering class of 1994.
The report also shows a significant rebound for white football student-athletes, a group that had dropped to its lowest percentage last year.
The NCAA graduation-rates study has tracked entering classes of student-athletes annually since 1991. The study is a product of the Student Right To Know Act, a federal law that requires institutions to provide graduation-rate data to prospective student-athletes, parents, high-school coaches and counselors as part of the recruiting process.
The data for the 1994 cohort show overall graduation rates for student-athletes remaining steady at 58 percent, 2 percent higher than the graduation rate for the overall student body. Graduation rates for student-athletes have been either 58 or 57 percent for the last nine entering classes -- from 1994 to 1986, the year when Proposition 48 (a rule that established higher initial-eligibility standards) took effect.
It also is the ninth straight year that student-athletes have graduated at a higher rate than the general student population. The only two classes that did not were the two pre-Prop 48 cohorts -- 1984 and 1985 -- which graduated at a rate of 52 percent, compared to student body rates of 53 percent and 54 percent, respectively.
Of note in the 1994 cohort is the jump for Division I black female basketball players -- 9 percent, from 52 percent for the 1993 entering class to 61 percent in 1994. That also represents a 13 percent increase from the 1992 class. The 61 percent figure is the highest ever achieved for that particular group, with the previous high being 59 percent in 1989. It also is 19 percentage points higher than the rate for the black female student body, the largest such difference for any group in the 1994 cohort.
The rate for Division I white female basketball players also increased, from 69 percent for both the 1992 and 1993 cohorts to 70 percent in 1994. Overall, Division I women's basketball players graduated at a rate of 65 percent, up 2 percent from 1993 but behind the all-time high of 67 percent in 1990.
For men's basketball players, however, the news is not as encouraging. The percentage for that group dropped slightly from 42 percent in 1993 to 40 percent in 1994. The rate for male basketball players has been between 40 and 46 percent for the last 10 classes. Much of the 1994 drop can be attributed to the white male group, which decreased from 56 percent in 1993 to 52 percent for the 1994 class. The 52 percent figure also is below the rate for the white male student body (57 percent). Graduation rates for white male basketball players have not been higher than the white male student body since the 1990 class. That coincides with overall rates for white male student-athletes, which tend to be 1 or 2 percent lower each year than rates for the overall white student body.
However, the rate for black male basketball players increased from 34 to 35 percent, which is 4 percent higher than the black male student body. The graduation rate of black male basketball players has been higher than that of the black male student body for all 11 classes tracked. Rates for black student-athletes overall also are traditionally higher than the overall black student body. The difference in the 1994 cohort is 8 percent.
After hitting an all-time low of 55 percent in 1993, the Division I-A white football cohort jumped to a rate of 60 percent in 1994. The 60 percent rate is more the norm for this particular group, which has graduated at a 60 or 61 percent rate in six of the 11 classes tracked. The highest rate for Division I-A white football players was 67 percent in 1989.
The rate for all I-A football players also increased, from 48 percent in 1993 to 51 percent for the 1994 cohort. The 51 percent figure, however, lags behind the graduation rate of the I-A male student body (57 percent in 1994), as it has in all 11 years of the study.
Similar to black male basketball players, though, Division I-A black football student-athletes continue to graduate at a higher rate than their black student body counterparts. For the 1994 class, 45 percent graduated, compared to 37 percent for the black male student body, which is the largest gap ever recorded for that group. The 45 percent rate also is 10 percentage points higher than the pre-Prop 48 classes in 1984 and 1985.
Overall, the most dramatic differences between student-athlete rates and student body rates in Division I continue to be found in the black female cohort. In addition to the 19 percent gap between black female basketball players and the black female student body, black female student-athletes overall graduated at a 59 percent rate in 1994, up 2 percent from 1993 and 17 percentage points higher than their black female student body counterparts.
Other significant gaps exist for the overall female cohort (69 percent for student-athletes, 59 percent for the student body) and the white female cohort (72 percent and 61 percent). Conversely, the male student body tends to graduate at a higher rate than men's basketball players (54 percent to 40 percent) and I-A football players (57 percent to 51).
Divisions II and III
In Division II, student-athletes in the 1994 cohort graduated at a significantly higher rate than their student body counterparts. Division II student-athletes graduated at a rate of 49 percent compared to the 42 percent rate posted by the student body. The 49 percent figure is bolstered most by a 56 percent graduation rate in women's basketball. Rates for men's basketball and football student-athletes were 46 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
Overall, Division II male student-athletes graduated at a rate of 44 percent, compared to 38 percent for the male student body, while female student-athletes graduated at a rate of 58 percent, compared to 46 percent for the female student body.
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 1994 Division III cohort, the overall student body graduated at a rate of 58 percent (55 percent for men and 60 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.
Measures for improvement
While overall student-athlete graduation rates continue to exceed those of the general student population, the NCAA is studying ways to improve graduation rates for student-athletes. Higher student-athlete rates are a primary focus in comprehensive studies going on currently in Division I football and basketball. Also, the Division I Board of Directors recently appointed a task force composed of presidents that will be keying on improved graduation rates as a product of academic reform initiatives.
In men's basketball, the group that appears to be the most at risk as far as graduation rates are concerned, legislation recently was approved that would allow institutions to provide financial aid to incoming basketball student-athletes the summer before their first fall term, provided the student-athlete is enrolled in a minimum of six credit hours. The legislation, which became effective for this past summer class and also applies to women's basketball student-athletes, figures to increase the academic preparedness of incoming players. The measure is part of a five-year study.
Graduation rates also are at the heart of an ongoing review of the NCAA's initial-eligibility standards. Groups within the Division I governance structure are looking at data that may lead to more defined standards that better predict college graduation.
In addition, legislation is being proposed that would add a supplemental graduation-rate calculation to those already reported. That measure is part of a proposal that ties graduation rates in men's basketball to the number of scholarships institutions can award. The Board of Directors is working to enhance information in areas where it believes graduation rates are misleading. Such cases include those where student-athletes transfer in from two-year as well as four-year institutions but are not included in the graduation rate, when student-athletes leave school in good academic standing for reasons other than turning professional or when those who desire to turn professional are unable to sign with a team.
Division II also has formed a Graduation-Rates Project Team to examine the issue.
Currently, graduation-rates data include only student-athletes who receive athletically related financial aid and graduate from that institution within six years of initial enrollment. Student-athletes who transfer in good academic standing to another institution count against their original institution as not graduating and are not counted in the freshman cohort rate for their second institution.
The entering class for next year's Division I study will be using different initial-eligibility standards. The 2002 report will reflect the requirement of 13 core courses, rather than the 11 that were called for by Prop 48. The 2003 report will reflect the Prop 16 initial-eligibility index, which became effective in 1996.
Graduation rates available online
For the first time, the NCAA graduation-rates study will be available online instead of distributed as a printed book or in CD ROM.
The complete report is available at no charge on NCAA Online. Those interested should click on "News & Publications" on the left-hand side of the front page and then click the "view online" option. Click on "research" for this and other research-oriented information.