Penn State student-athletes continue record graduation rates

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State student-athletes continue to graduate well above their peers nationwide, earning record-setting academic performances, according to statistical information released today by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The NCAA's annual study of institutions nationwide revealed that Penn State student-athletes at the University Park campus earned a record Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 90 percent compared to a 79 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2000-01 through 2003-04. The 90 percent figure was second to Northwestern (97) among Big Ten Conference institutions. Penn State’s previous record was 89 percent from the 2008 and 2009 NCAA reports.

This is the 20th release of institutional graduation rates since national "right-to-know" legislation was passed in 1990. In 2005, the NCAA Division I Committee on Academic Performance implemented the initial release of the team GSR data.

The GSR is the NCAA's more inclusive calculation of student-athlete academic success. The NCAA rate is more accurate than the federally mandated methodology because it includes incoming transfers and students enrolling in the spring semester who receive athletic aid and graduate and deletes from the calculation student-athletes who leave an institution and were academically eligible to compete. The federal rate does neither.

In addition to releasing each institution's overall four-year Graduation Success Rate, the NCAA also released the federal graduation rates for students and student-athletes as it has for the past 20 years.

The four-year federal graduation rate average for University Park student-athletes was 80 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 64 percent, and second to Northwestern (88) among Big Ten schools. The four-year average for University Park students was 85 percent, also far exceeding the 62 percent rate for all students nationwide.

Among the 2003-04 entering freshman class, 76 percent of Penn State student-athletes earned degrees within six years, well above than the 64 percent for all Division I institutions. Penn State’s 76 percent figure was third-highest among Big Ten schools, trailing only Northwestern (91) and Michigan (80). The graduation rate for all Penn State students was 85 percent in the entering class of 2003-04.

"Penn State places great value on the academic success of our student-athletes, and we’re very proud of their consistent outstanding performance. These numbers clearly show the dedication of our students, our academic staff and our coaches,” said Penn State President Graham Spanier.

The NCAA data revealed that student-athletes from 23 of Penn State’s 25 teams (track/cross country teams combined) earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the national GSR average of 79 percent. Eight Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent and 20 of 25 Nittany Lion teams earned a GSR higher than or equal to the national average for their respective sport.

Other highlights from the NCAA Graduation Rates Report:

-- Penn State's four-year federal graduation rate for African-American student-athletes was 75 percent, marking the 20th consecutive year the Nittany Lions topped the Division I national average (53 percent). The 87 percent GSR figure for Penn State African-American student-athletes was a school record and was 24 points higher than the national average.

The Penn State football (84 percent compared to 67), Nittany Lion basketball (86 to 65 percent) and Lady Lion basketball (100 to 83 percent) teams all earned four-year Graduation Success Rates higher than the national average for their sport. Coach Ed De Chellis’ Nittany Lions ranked third in the Big Ten with their 86 percent GSR score. Coach Coquese Washington’s Lady Lions were tied for first in the Big Ten with their 100 percent GSR average.

The 84 percent GSR figure for Coach Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lion football program was one point off last year’s school record and second to Northwestern among all Big Ten Conference football teams. Penn State earned a 77 percent four-year federal graduation rate for student-athletes entering school in 2003-04, also second to Northwestern among Big Ten football teams.

Last Updated November 18, 2010