Penn State student-athletes continue superlative graduation rates

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

The NCAA's annual study of institutions across the nation revealed Penn State student-athletes at the University Park campus earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 89 percent compared to the 82 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2004-05 through the 2007-08 academic year. The 89 percent figure is just one point off Penn State's 90 percent record mark from the 2010 NCAA report.

The Nittany Lion basketball and Lady Lion basketball teams earned perfect Graduation Success Rates of 100 percent for the second consecutive year. The Penn State football team posted a GSR of 87 percent, up two points from the 2013 report, and tied for its second-highest graduation rate (2011).

All three programs delivered graduation figures at least 15 points higher than the national average for their sport for the fifth consecutive NCAA Graduation Rates Report.

The superlative graduation data comes amidst a fall sports season that has seen the Penn State women's soccer team win its 16th Big Ten Championship in 17 years, the men's soccer squad leading the conference and the women's volleyball team one game out of first place as the fall sports' regular season winds down. During the 2013-14 academic year, Penn State tied its school record with eight Big Ten Championships for the second consecutive year.

"Penn State's consistently high Graduation Success Rates are a true team effort, with student-athletes, coaches and staff all working together to support excellence in competition and in the classroom," said Penn State President Eric Barron. "We're very proud of the discipline and work ethic that goes into this success story, and offer our sincerest congratulations to everyone involved in the mission of preparing our student-athletes for productive and fulfilling livelihoods beyond college." 

"Penn State has a long history and tradition of combining academic excellence with athletic success," said Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. "These latest NCAA graduation rate figures are continued confirmation of our communities' commitment to outstanding academic performance. These achievements are a tribute to our student-athletes, coaches, academic support staff and administration over time. No matter how good our academic metrics may be, we can always strive to improve, and that is what we are focused on doing every day."

This is the 24th 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 academic success among scholarship student-athletes. 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 24 years.

The four-year federal graduation rate average for University Park student-athletes was 79 percent, up one point, and tied for second among Big Ten institutions, and significantly above the 65 percent Division I average. The four-year average for University Park students was 86 percent, exceeding the 64 percent rate for all students nationwide by 21 points.

The NCAA data revealed student-athletes from eight Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent, the same number as in the 2013 report. The men's basketball, women's basketball, women's fencing, field hockey, men's golf, women's lacrosse, softball and women's tennis teams all posted perfect GSR scores.

Eighteen of Penn State's 25 teams (track/cross-country teams combined) earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the national GSR average of 82 percent. (The NCAA data does not include the Penn State men's and women's hockey teams, which became varsity sports in the 2012-13 academic year.)

Other highlights from the 2014 NCAA Graduation Rates Report:

-- Penn State African-American student-athletes earned an 89 percent Graduation Success Rate, the second-highest figure in school history, just one point off the record 90 percent figure in the 2012 NCAA report. The figure was second-best among Big Ten institutions (Northwestern, 92) and 21 points higher than the national average of 68 percent. Penn State African-American student-athletes also earned a four-year federal graduation rate significantly higher than the Division I national average for the 24th consecutive year.

-- The Penn State football (87 percent compared to 71 in Division I), Nittany Lion basketball (100 to 72 percent) and Lady Lion basketball (100 to 85 percent) teams all earned four-year Graduation Success Rates at least 15 points higher than the national average for their sport. The men's basketball graduation figure was 28 points higher than the Division I average.

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Last Updated October 28, 2014