Penn State student-athletes deliver record-tying 90 percent graduation rate

November 08, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student-athletes continue to graduate well above their peers nationwide, delivering a record-tying academic performance, according to data announced today (Nov. 8) 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 90 percent to tie the school’s all-time record, previously set in the 2010 NCAA report. Nittany Lion students posted a 90 percent graduation rate compared to the 86 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2007-08 through the 2010-11 academic year.

Penn State student-athletes have delivered a Graduation Success Rate in the 88 to 90 percent range during each of the past 11 NCAA reports, improving from 88 percent in the 2015 report, to 89 percent last year, to the record-tying 90 percent figure this year.

Penn State NCAA Graduation Success Rate 2017
IMAGE: Penn State Athletics

“Penn State’s student-athletes demonstrate an incredible level of commitment, discipline and work ethic — in competition and in the classroom,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “This record graduation rate report is a credit to the whole Intercollegiate Athletics team — students, coaches, advisers and our faculty. We are proud of this noteworthy achievement!”

“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 to Penn State’s values.”

Nine teams post 100 percent GSR scores

The NCAA data revealed student-athletes from nine Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent, an increase of two from last year’s seven teams and up four from the 2015 total of five squads.

The nine Nittany Lion squads posting 100 percent GSR scores were: men’s basketball, field hockey, women’s golf, women’s gymnastics, men’s hockey, women’s hockey, men’s soccer, softball and women’s tennis.

The field hockey and women’s tennis teams earned a 100 percent GSR for the 13th 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 sixth straight year, and the men’s basketball team had a perfect GSR score for the fifth consecutive year.

For the first time, the NCAA report included data from the Penn State men’s and women’s hockey student-athletes, with both teams producing 100 percent graduation rates.

Nine Nittany Lion squads improved their four-year GSR score from last year’s NCAA graduation report, led by the wrestling (+16 percent), men’s fencing (+15 percent), men’s gymnastics (+9 percent), football (+4 percent) and women’s soccer teams (+3 percent).

Basketball and football programs again exceed national averages

For the eighth consecutive year, the Penn State football (84 percent compared to 75 percent in Division I), Nittany Lion basketball (100 percent compared to 78 percent) and Lady Lion basketball (92 percent compared to 89 percent) teams all earned four-year Graduation Success Rates at least three points higher than the national average for their sports.

The men’s basketball graduation figure was 22 points higher than the Division I average and the Lady Lions delivered a 92 percent GSR for the second consecutive year. The football squad’s 84 percent GSR was an increase of four points from last year’s NCAA report and was tied for third-highest in the Big Ten Conference.

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

Twenty Nittany Lion teams surpass national GSR average

Twenty of the Nittany Lions’ 27 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 86 percent, an increase of three from 17 teams last year. A total of 19 Penn State squads have a GSR of 90 percent or higher.

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

  • Men’s basketball, 100 percent compared to 78 percent (+22 percent)
  • Men’s soccer, 100 percent compared to 83 percent (+17 percent)
  • Men’s hockey, 100 percent compared to 89 percent (+11 percent)
  • Baseball, 90 percent compared to 80 percent (+10 percent)
  • Softball, 100 percent compared to 90 percent (+10 percent)

Federal graduation rate 11 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 27 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 67 percent Division I average. The four-year average for all 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 Penn State with seven teams ranked among the nation’s top 20, including the top-ranked women’s volleyball and wrestling squads.

This is the 27th 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.

2017 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: 90 percent                      

Division I: 86 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (97 percent), T 4. Penn State (90 percent)

Student-athletes (four-year federal)

Penn State: 78 percent                      

Division I: 67 percent

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

Female student-athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 95 percent                      

Division I: 92 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. 3 schools (98 percent), T 6. Penn State (95 percent)

Male student-athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 86 percent                     

Division I: 80 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (97 percent), 3. Penn State (86 percent)

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

Penn State: 100 percent                     

Division I: 78 percent

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

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

Penn State: 92 percent                      

Division I: 89 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. 5 schools (100 percent), T11. Penn State (92 percent)

Football student-athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 84 percent                      

Division I: 75 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (99 percent), T3. Penn State (84 percent)

Last Updated November 09, 2017