Penn State student-athletes make the grade again, says new NCAA report

June 09, 2010

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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 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The NCAA released data from the 2008-09 academic year as the sixth set of results in the Academic Progress Rate (APR), a formula introduced as part of the Division I Academic Performance Program. The NCAA released sport specific data for 2008-09 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.

Twelve Penn State squads earned perfect APR scores of 1,000 for 2008-09: Nittany Lion basketball, men's cross country, men's fencing, field hockey, women's golf, women's gymnastics, men's and women's soccer, softball, men's and women's tennis and men's volleyball.

Two Penn State squads have a perfect multi-year APR score of 1,000 – field hockey and women’s tennis. Just 9.3 percent of the nation’s 6,411 teams in the survey earned a four-year APR score of 1,000.

Among Penn State's 29 varsity teams, 24 have a four-year APR score at or above the Division I average for their respective sports, an increase of one from the 2009 APR report. Three of the other five teams were above the Division I public institution average for their particular sport. The NCAA did not release institutional APR rates for 2008-09 or the multi-year rate.

Four Nittany Lions squads have multi-year APR scores that rank in the Top 10 percent nationally for their respective sport: Nittany Lion basketball (995), field hockey (1,000), softball (996) and women's tennis (1,000). The Penn State football team (974) ranks in the Top 20 percent nationally and an additional eight Penn State teams rank in the Top 30 percent nationally for their respective sport.

The Nittany Lion and Lady Lion basketball teams both improved their APR score by more than 15 points from the 2009 NCAA report.

"We are delighted with the consistently high level of academic achievements of our student-athletes year-in and year-out," stated Tim Curley, Director of Athletics. "Their academic success is a credit to their outstanding work-ethic and dedication. Our coaches deserve recognition 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 our student-athletes receive from our faculty and academic support personnel also are a critical component in our academic successes."

In May, the Nittany Lion basketball, field hockey, softball and women's tennis teams earned NCAA Public Recognition Awards for having APR scores in the top 10 percent nationally for their respective sport during the 2008-09 academic year.

Penn State has placed no lower than third among Big Ten institutions in total number of NCAA Public Recognition Awards in all four years of the program.

Penn State student-athletes earned a record-tying Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 89 percent compared to a 78 percent average for all Division I institutions, according to NCAA data released in November 2009. Twenty-three 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.

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, with every squad at 953 or higher.

The Penn State football team has the third-highest multi-year APR score among Big Ten football squads at 974. The Nittany Lions easily surpassed the Football Bowl Subdivision average of 947 and the Division I public institution average of 937.

The Nittany Lion basketball team has a four-year APR score of 995, an increase of 20 points from last year, and significantly higher than the Division I men's basketball average of 940 and the public institution score of 931. Penn State posted the Big Ten's third-highest APR figure among men's basketball teams for the third consecutive year, trailing only Michigan State and Northwestern.


The Lady Lion basketball team has a multi-year APR score of 978, an improvement of 16 points from the 2009 report, and well above the public Division I women's basketball average of 966 and the public institution score of 960.

Penn State's student-athletes, who have captured 24 Big Ten Championships during the past five years and eight NCAA titles in the past three years, consistently have been among the nation's most successful in earning their degrees. Among some of their recent academic accomplishments are:

- Eight Nittany Lion student-athletes have been selected ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans® thus far in 2009-10. Megan Hodge, the women's volleyball 2009 National Player of the Year, was selected Academic All-American® of the Year for her sport;

- Penn State's 158 all-time ESPN Academic All-Americans® are the third-highest total among all NCAA institutions. Penn State has had 110 Academic All-Americans since Tim Curley became Director of Athletics in December, 1993, a total higher than any Big Ten institution has all-time since the Academic All-America program's inception in 1952

- Penn State student-athletes earned a school record Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 89 percent for the second consecutive year, compared to a 79 percent average for all Division I-A institutions, according to NCAA data released in November, 2009. The 89 percent figure was second highest among Big Ten Conference institutions;

- According to the 2009 NCAA data, Penn State's four-year federal graduation rate average was 82 percent, again well above the national average of 63 percent, and second to Northwestern (88) among Big Ten schools;

- During the 2009 Fall semester, a total of 415 student-athletes earned a grade point average of 3.0 or above. The 415 total represents 58 percent of the 714 young men and women who were members of Penn State's 29 varsity sports last fall, just two percentage points off the school record. Among the 415 Nittany Lion student-athletes with a 3.0 GPA, 189 earned a 3.50 grade point average or higher to gain Dean's List recognition. Dean's List students must complete a minimum of 12 credits in a semester.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010