Penn State student-athletes continue outstanding graduation rates

October 26, 2011

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 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 Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 88 percent compared to the 80 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2001-02 through 2004-05. The 88 percent figure was third to Northwestern (96) and Illinois (89) among Big Ten Conference institutions.

The Penn State football team earned a record GSR of 87 percent, tied with Stanford for the top graduation rate among teams in this week’s BCS rankings and AP Top 25 poll. The Nittany Lion basketball (90 percent) and Lady Lion basketball (100) teams also earned graduation rates at least 15 percent higher than the national average.

This is the 21st annual 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 21 years.

The four-year federal graduation rate average for University Park student-athletes was 79 percent, second to Northwestern (88) among Big Ten schools, and significantly above the 64 percent Division I average. The four-year average for University Park students was 85 percent, also far exceeding the 62 percent rate for all students nationwide.

Among the 2004-05 entering freshman class, 80 percent of Penn State student-athletes earned degrees within six years, up from 76 percent last year and well above the 65 percent average for all Division I institutions. Penn State’s 80 percent figure was second-highest among Big Ten schools, trailing only Northwestern (85). The graduation rate for all Penn State students was 85 percent in the entering class of 2004-05.

"At Penn State, we are committed to developing the athletic and academic potential of our student-athletes," said President Graham Spanier. "We’re proud that our graduation rates rank among the top tier of NCAA schools, and we’re delighted to see our graduates succeed as they move beyond intercollegiate athletics and advance in their chosen careers."

The NCAA data revealed that student-athletes from six Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent -- Lady Lion basketball, field hockey, women’s golf, men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and women’s tennis – and eight additional teams were at 90 percent or higher. Twenty of Penn State’s 25 teams (track/cross country teams combined) earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the national GSR average of 80 percent.

Other highlights from the NCAA Graduation Rates Report:

-- Penn State's African-American student-athletes in the 2004-05 entering freshman class earned an 87 percent graduation rate, 32 points higher than the national average (55 percent). The four-year federal graduation rate for Penn State African-American student-athletes was 73 percent, marking the 21st 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 tied the school record and was 22 points higher than the national average (65 percent).

-- The Penn State football (87 percent compared to 67 percent), Nittany Lion basketball (90 percent to 66 percent) and Lady Lion basketball (100 percent to 84 percent) teams all earned four-year Graduation Success Rates considerably higher than the national average for their sport. Coach Patrick Chambers’ Nittany Lions ranked second in the Big Ten with their 90 percent GSR score. Coach Coquese Washington’s Lady Lions were tied for first in the Big Ten with their 100 percent GSR average.

-- The 2004-05 entering class for Coach Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions’ earned an 84 percent graduation rate, which was highest among Big Ten Conference teams (Northwestern was second at 80 percent). The record 87 percent GSR figure for the Penn State football program was second to Northwestern among all Big Ten gridiron teams. Penn State football student-athletes earned a four-year federal graduation rate of 80 percent, also second to Northwestern among Big Ten football teams.

  • To view the chart detailing Penn State's GSR figures as compared to NCAA Division I figures, click on the image above

    IMAGE: Annemarie Mountz

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 31, 2011