Lacrosse #1 in NCAA's New Graduation Success Rate

INDIANAPOLIS First-year data from the NCAA's new Graduation Success Rate show that about three-fourths of Division I student-athletes are succeeding in the classroom and earning their college degrees.

The GSR is a new NCAA measurement that improves upon the federally mandated graduation rate by including transfer data in the calculation. It was developed in response to college and university presidents who wanted graduation data that more accurately reflect the mobility among students in today's higher education climate.

Research indicates that complex patterns of college attendance are becoming the norm for U.S. college students it is estimated that about 60 percent of all new bachelor's degree recipients are attending more than one undergraduate institution during their collegiate careers.

Overall first-year GSR results indicate that after removing students who leave institutions while academically eligible, about three-fourths of all Division I scholarship student-athletes graduate either from the institution they started at or where they transferred.

"This is an important finding, one that I believe reflects that fact that by and large, athletics departments are successful at keeping student-athletes on track to graduate, either at their institution or another one," said NCAA President Myles Brand.

The actual success rate is 76 percent for all of Division I. Broken down by subdivision, the GSR in Division I-A is also 76 percent, Division I-AA is 73 percent and Division I-AAA is 79 percent.

Those figures are higher than the graduation rates in the federal calculation (about 62 percent for all Division I student-athletes) because the federally mandated methodology counts all students who leave as non-graduates from their initial institution. At the same time, transfers who enter an institution are not included in the federal calculation.

Todd Petr, NCAA managing director of research, said the total number of students included in GSR compared with the total in the federal cohort is evidence that the GSR is a more comprehensive rate.

For the four-year span that encompasses the current data (entering classes from 1995-98), there were 67,277 students tracked within the federal cohort. Within the GSR, however, the initial cohort for those years is 91,051 students an increase of about 35 percent.

"Clearly, the federal methodology has been missing a significant number of scholarship student-athletes who are competing on NCAA teams," Petr said. "By the old standards, some 24,000 students who contributed on the field of play were not included in the calculation of the rate. Additionally, more than 16,000 students who left institutions in good academic standing were universally viewed as academic failures."

The first release of GSR data includes team rates only, and not an aggregate rate for each institution. The Division I Board of Directors deliberately chose that approach to focus initially on teams as the unit of analysis. Institution GSRs will be released in late January, along with the overall federal graduation rates.

By not accounting for transfers in or transfers out, most college and university presidents believe the federal graduation rate fails to adequately assess the academic success of those students who are participating in Division I athletics.

"Under the federal methodology, a student-athlete who transfers from one Division I college to another is treated as a non-graduate at the first and is ignored in the calculation at the second even if he or she graduates," Petr said. "Similarly, a 2-year transfer into a Division I institution is never included in that school's federal graduation rate calculation. Given the mobility of today's students, the GSR is simply a more defensible methodology."

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