Penn State student-athletes continue to earn outstanding graduation rates

November 15, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student-athletes continue to graduate well above their peers nationwide, earning strong academic performances, according to statistical information released by the NCAA.

The NCAA's annual graduation rates 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 84 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2006-07 through the 2009-10 academic year. The 89 percent graduation figure is just one point off Penn State’s 90 percent all-time graduation record mark and one point higher than last year’s figure.

Penn State Student Athlete Graduation Success Rates
IMAGE: Penn State Athletics

“Long hours of practice, a full schedule of home and away games, and challenging academic schedules require an incredible amount of discipline and commitment by student-athletes,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “I’m very proud that Penn State student-athletes continue to achieve noteworthy success in the classroom and in athletic competitions. Congratulations to the student-athletes, coaches, advisers, staff, families and fans for supporting excellence in every arena.”

“Every day, in everything they do, our student-athletes, coaches, staff and administration strive for comprehensive excellence, including results in the classroom, athletic venues and community,” said Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. “These outstanding graduation rates tell an important part of our story, and serve as concrete evidence of our commitment and focus on academics, as well as our students’ preparation for life beyond Penn State. These numbers show that our commitment to student-athletes over the years has been steadfast, and our pursuit of comprehensive excellence is as strong as our commitment of Penn State’s values.”

Seven teams post 100 percent GSR scores; field hockey, women’s tennis perfect for 12th consecutive year

The NCAA data revealed student-athletes from seven Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent, an increase of two from last year’s five teams. The seven Nittany Lion squads posting perfect graduation scores were: men’s basketball, field hockey, women’s golf, women’s gymnastics, men’s soccer, softball and women’s tennis.

The field hockey and women’s tennis teams earned a 100 percent GSR for the 12th consecutive year, every year since the NCAA implemented the release of Graduation Success Rate data in 2005. The softball squad posted a 100 percent GSR for the fifth straight year, and the men’s basketball team had a perfect GSR score for the fourth consecutive year.

Eleven Nittany Lion squads improved their GSR score from last year’s NCAA graduation report, while five others had the same GSR as last year — four of whom were at 100 percent for at least a second consecutive year.

Basketball and football programs again exceed national averages

For the seventh consecutive year, the Penn State football (80 percent compared to 74 in Division I and FBS), Nittany Lion basketball (100 to 76 percent) and Lady Lion basketball (92 to 87 percent) teams all earned four-year Graduation Success Rates at least four points higher than the national average for their sports.

The men’s basketball graduation figure was 24 points higher than the Division I average and the Lady Lions’ 92 percent GSR was an increase of two points from the 2015 NCAA report.

Penn State consistently ranked in the top five among Big Ten Conference institutions across a variety of key NCAA graduation data comparisons (see below).

Seventeen Nittany Lion teams surpass national GSR average

Seventeen of the Nittany Lions’ 25 teams (men’s and women’s track and field/cross-country teams combined) earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the national GSR average of 84 percent, with a total of 22 Penn State squads at 80 percent or higher. The NCAA data does not include the Penn State men’s and women’s hockey teams, which became varsity sports during the 2012-13 academic year.

Ten Penn State squads posted Graduation Success Rates that were at least five points higher than the Division I average for their sport, with four teams at least 10 points higher:

Men’s basketball, 100 percent to 76 (+24);

Men’s soccer, 100 percent to 83 (+17);

Softball, 100 percent to 89 (+11)

Baseball, 89 percent to 79 (+10).

Federal graduation rate 12 points above Division I average

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 26 years. The four-year federal graduation rate average for University Park student-athletes was 78 percent, No. 3 among Big Ten institutions, and significantly above the 66 percent Division I average. The four-year average for University Park students was 86 percent, exceeding the 65 percent rate for all students nationwide by 21 points.

The excellent graduation data comes during a fall sports season that has seen Penn State win the Big Ten championship in women’s soccer and the field hockey team capture the Big Ten tournament title, with other crowns still to be contested. Six Nittany Lion teams are ranked in their respective top 15: women’s cross-country, field hockey, football, men’s hockey, women’s volleyball and wrestling.

This is the 26th 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.

2016 NCAA graduation rates report key comparisons

All students (four-year federal)

Penn State: 86 percent

Division I average: 65 percent

Student-athletes (four-year Graduation Success Rate)

Penn State: 89 percent

Division I: 84 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (97 percent), 5. Penn State (89 percent)

Student-athletes (four-year federal)

Penn State: 78 percent

Division I: 66 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (91 percent), 3. Penn State (78 percent)

Student-athletes (entering class of 2009-10 federal)

Penn State: 78 percent

Division I: 66 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (90 percent), 5. Penn State (78 percent)

Female student-athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 95 percent

Division I: 91 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (97 percent), T4. Penn State (95 percent)

Male student-athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 84 percent

Division I: 79 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (96 percent), T4. Penn State (84 percent)

Men’s basketball student-athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 100 percent

Division I: 76 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Penn State (100 percent)

Women’s basketball student-athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 92 percent

Division I: 87 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. 5 schools (100 percent), T6. Penn State (92 percent)

Football student-athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 80 percent

Division I and FBS: 74 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (97 percent), 5. Penn State (80 percent)

Last Updated December 13, 2016