Penn State student-athletes make the grade in new NCAA APR results

University Park, Pa. — Penn State student-athletes continue to make better progress toward graduation in comparison with the nation's Division I institutions, despite higher academic standards than required, according to data released Wednesday (May 6) by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The NCAA released data from the 2007-08 academic year as the fifth set of results in the Academic Progress Rate (APR), a formula introduced in 2005 as part of the Division I Academic Performance Program. The NCAA released sport specific data for 2007-08 to each institution, as well as the most recent four years of collected data that is used to determine a rolling four-year (multi-year) APR score for all athletic teams to provide a meaningful assessment of a team's academic performance.

Three Penn State squads have a perfect multi-year APR score of 1,000 - field hockey, women's lacrosse and women's tennis. Just 7.2 percent of the nation's 6,323 teams in the survey earned a four-year APR score of 1,000.

Among Penn State's 29 varsity teams, 23 have a four-year APR score at or above the Division I average for their respective sports. The NCAA did not release institutional APR rates for 2007-08 or the multi-year rate.

Nine Nittany Lions squads have multi-year APR scores that rank in the Top 20 percent nationally for their respective sport: men's basketball, women's cross country, field hockey, football, women's golf, women's lacrosse, softball, women's tennis and wrestling. An additional six Penn State teams rank in the Top 30 percent nationally for their respective sport.

Penn State has the highest multi-year APR score among Big Ten football teams, while the Nittany Lion basketball team ranks No. 3 in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lion football and basketball squads and the Lady Lion basketball team all improved their APR score by at least nine points from the 2008 NCAA report.

"We continue to be very pleased with the consistently high level of academic achievements of our student-athletes," stated Tim Curley, Director of Athletics. "Their academic success is a credit to their outstanding work-ethic and dedication. Our coaches deserve credit for identifying and recruiting student-athletes that are able to excel in the classroom, compete for championships and represent Penn State. The encouragement and guidance they receive from our faculty and academic support personnel also are a critical component in our academic successes."

In April, five Nittany Lion teams - field hockey, softball, women's lacrosse, women's tennis and wrestling - earned NCAA Public Recognition Awards for having APR scores in the top 10 percent nationally for their respective sport during the 2007-08 academic year.

Penn State's five honored teams were tied for second-highest in the Big Ten Conference. The Nittany Lions have placed second in the Big Ten all three years of the NCAA's Public Recognition program.

Penn State student-athletes earned a record Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 89 percent compared to a 78 percent average for all Division I institutions, according to NCAA data released in October 2008. Twenty-two of Penn State's 25 teams earned a GSR score above the national average (track and field and cross country are counted as one sport) and 21 Nittany Lion teams earned a GSR higher than the national average for their respective sport.

Eleven Penn State squads earned a GSR of 100 percent, according to the 2008 NCAA report.

Penn State academic standards (Faculty Senate Policy 67-00) are higher than both the NCAA and Big Ten standards and are reflected in the APR reporting to the NCAA. Nittany Lion student-athletes are required to have passed more credits entering their fifth through eighth semesters than the Big Ten and NCAA require. Penn State student-athletes also must have a higher grade point average than the Big Ten minimum entering their second through sixth semesters.

The APR scores are a measure of eligibility and retention/graduation for each student-athlete receiving athletic aid during the identified academic semester/year. Retention is evaluated for each student-athlete with the following question in mind: Did that student-athlete return to the institution the next semester (students can earn 2 points after the fall semester and 2 points after the spring and summer semesters)? Eligibility is evaluated using NCAA, conference (if applicable), and institutional standards.

The APR is based on four years of data, with the most current year's data added and the oldest year removed to create a four-year (multi-year) rolling rate.

Contemporaneous financial aid penalties can be applied if an athletic team's multi-year APR score is below 925. If a team's multi-year score is below 900, that team could be subject to historical penalties.

None of Penn State's 29 varsity sport programs team has a multi-year APR below 925.

The Penn State football team has the highest multi-year APR score among Big Ten football squads at 976, an increase of 12 points from the 2008 report. The Nittany Lions easily surpassed the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) average of 941 and the Division I public institution average of 931.

The Nittany Lion basketball team has a four-year APR score of 975, an increase of 11 points from last year, and significantly above the Division I men's basketball average of 933 and the public institution score of 924. Penn State posted the Big Ten's third-highest APR figure among men's basketball teams for the second consecutive year, trailing only Illinois and Michigan State.

The Lady Lion basketball squad has a multi-year APR score of 962, an improvement of nine points from the 2008 report, and six points above the public Division I women's basketball average of 956 and equal to the Division I average for women's basketball programs.

Penn State's student-athletes, who have captured 17 Big Ten Championships during the past four years and six NCAA titles in the past two years, consistently have been among the nation's most successful in earning their degrees. Among some of their recent academic accomplishments are:

- A school record nine Nittany Lion student-athletes were selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America® team during the 2008 Fall semester, including six first team honorees.

- According to 2008 NCAA data, Penn State's 2001-02 entering freshman class earned a record 84 percent federal graduation rate among student-athletes, significantly above the 64 percent for all Division I institutions. The four-year federal graduation rate average for University Park student-athletes was 82 percent, again well above the national average of 63 percent, and second to Northwestern (88) in the Big Ten.

- African-American student-athletes at Penn State continue to graduate at much higher percentages than at other Division I institutions. Seventy-nine percent of African-American student-athletes that entered Penn State in 2001-02 graduated, highest among Big Ten Conference institutions and significantly above the national Division I average of 53 percent.

- Penn State's African-American student-athlete GSR was 80 percent, again significantly above the Division I national GSR average of 62 percent. Penn State was second only to Northwestern among Big Ten schools in the African-American four-year federal graduation rate and GSR.

- Of the Penn State student-athletes in the NCAA studies from 1992-93 through 2001-02 who exhausted their eligibility, 96 percent left with their diplomas.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010