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NCAA Releases New GSR

Dec. 27, 2005

  • Graduation Success Rate (GSR) Data
  • Aggregate GSR Data - All Division I
  • Aggregate GSR Data - Division I-AAA

    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 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 nongraduates 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 nongraduate 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."

    Although the GSR is higher for many or even most teams compared to the federal rate, Petr noted that team GSRs will be lower if teams rely heavily on transfers and do not pay attention to their academic progress.

    "The way incoming transfers affect a team's GSR is an important distinction," Petr said. "The new metric holds institutions accountable for the academic success of all student-athletes enrolled at a given time. It is a mistake to assume that the GSR for every team will increase over the federal rate."

    Brand said the GSR responds to a presidential need. "The GSR complements the federal rate and responds to a request from college presidents to more accurately depict transfer trends in higher education," he said. "The NCAA is not going to stop releasing rates based on the federal methodology; however, we are continuing our appeals to the Department of Education to adopt what we believe is a better approach."

    Brand said the federal methodology maintains some value because it is the only rate by which to compare student-athlete success with student body success.

    "While the GSR is a more accurate rate for student-athletes, there is no comparable measure to date for the student body that tracks transfers the way the GSR does," he said.

    Both the federal rate and the GSR track the four most recent cohort, the entering classes of 1995-96 to 1998-99. Preliminary data from the federal methodology show student-athletes graduating at a rate of 62 percent.

    Federal rates for football and men's basketball student-athletes in the four-class cohort remain steady -- about 54 percent and 44 percent, respectively. The latter continues to be the lowest for any sport in the federal rate. The GSRs for both sports indicate that more student-athletes are actually graduating than reflected by the federal rate -- 64 percent in Division I football (65 percent in Division I-A, 63 percent in Division I-AA) and 58 percent in men's basketball. Those two sports, however, still show the lowest rates by sport in the GSR calculation. Baseball and wrestling are next at 65 and 66 percent, respectively.

    The top three sports in the Division I GSR are women's lacrosse (94 percent), and women's gymnastics, field hockey and women's fencing (93 percent). Women's swimming and diving also eclipsed the 90-percent mark (91 percent).

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