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

November 14, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student-athletes continue to graduate well above their peers nationwide, delivering a second consecutive record-tying academic performance, according to data announced 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 and 2017 NCAA reports. Nittany Lion students posted a 90 percent graduation rate compared to the 87 percent average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2008-09 through the 2011-12 academic year.

Penn State student-athletes have delivered a Graduation Success Rate in the 88 to 90 percent range during each of the past 12 NCAA reports, improving from 88 percent in the 2015 report, to 89 percent in 2016, to the record-tying 90 percent figure the past two years.

Graduation Success Rate 2018

Penn State student-athletes continue to graduate well above their peers nationwide, as 20 Nittany Lion teams earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the Division I national average for their sport. 

IMAGE: Penn State Athletics

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 Division I national GSR average for their respective sport. A total of 19 Penn State squads have a GSR of 90 percent or higher.

“With back-to-back years of a record-tying graduation rate, the Nittany Lions continue to represent the best of what it means to be a Division I student-athlete at a world-class institution,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “Congratulations to everyone who wears the blue and white, and to the team of coaches, advisers and faculty members who support their success.”

“Our student-athletes, coaches, staff and administration, each and every day, seek comprehensive excellence that includes success in the classroom, competition and community,” said Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. “These outstanding graduation rates tell an important part of the Penn State story, and serve as evidence of our commitment and focus on academics, as well as our students’ preparation for life beyond Penn State. These results continue to demonstrate 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.”

Eight teams post 100 percent GSR; 19 squads at 90 percent or higher

The NCAA data revealed student-athletes from eight Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent, while an additional 11 teams posted a graduation rate of 90 percent or higher, for a total of 19 teams at or above 90 percent.

The eight Nittany Lion squads posting 100 percent Graduation Success Rate scores were: field hockey, women’s golf, women’s gymnastics, men’s hockey, women’s hockey, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and wrestling.

The field hockey and women’s tennis teams earned a 100 percent GSR for the 14th consecutive year — every year since the NCAA implemented the release of Graduation Success Rate data in 2005. The women’s golf and women’s gymnastics’ squads posted a 100 percent GSR for the third straight year, and the men’s and women’s hockey teams had a perfect GSR score for the second consecutive year that they’ve been eligible.

NCAA champion wrestlers earn 100 percent Graduation Success Rate

The wrestling squad, which has won seven of the past eight NCAA championships, delivered its first 100 percent GSR, which is 22 points higher than the Division I average.

Ten Nittany Lion squads improved their four-year GSR score from last year’s NCAA graduation report, with others remaining the same, led by the wrestling (+14), men’s tennis (+9), men’s volleyball (+6), men’s fencing (+5) and women’s fencing (+4) teams.

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

Twenty Penn State squads surpass national GSR sport average

Among the 20 Nittany Lion teams above the Division I sport average, 10 squads posted Graduation Success Rates that were at least five points higher than the national average for their sport:

Wrestling —100 percent, compared to 78 percent nationally (+22)

Men’s hockey — 100 to 90 (+10)

Baseball — 91 to 82 (+9)

Men’s soccer — 94 to 85 (+9)

Men’s tennis — 100 to 92 (+8)

Men’s basketball — 88 to 81 (+7)

Football — 82 to 76 (+6)

Women’s golf — 100 to 94 (+6)

Men’s lacrosse — 93 to 88 (+5)

Women’s tennis — 100 to 95 (+5)

2018 NCAA Graduation Rates Penn State
IMAGE: Penn State Athletics

Basketball, football programs continue to exceed national averages

For the ninth consecutive year, the Penn State football (82 percent compared to 76 percent) in Division I, Nittany Lion basketball (88 to 81) and Lady Lion basketball (92 to 90) teams all earned four-year Graduation Success Rates at least two points higher than the national average for their sports.

Federal graduation rate 12 points above Division I average; No. 4 in Big Ten

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 28 years. The four-year federal graduation rate average for University Park student-athletes increased by one point to 79 percent, No. 4 among Big Ten institutions, which was significantly above the 67 percent Division I average.

The four-year average for all University Park students was 86 percent, exceeding the 66 percent rate for all students nationwide by 20 points.

Single-year federal graduation rate 14 points higher than Division I average

The entering class of 2011-12 Nittany Lion students earned an 82 percent single-year federal graduation rate that was six points higher than the single year rate for the 2010-11 entering class and 14 points higher than the Division I average.

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 wrestling squad.

This is the 28th 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.

2018 NCAA Graduation Rates Report key comparisons

All Students (four-year federal)

Penn State: 86 percent

Division I average: 66 percent

Student-Athletes (four-year Graduation Success Rate)

Penn State: 90 percent

Division I: 87 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (98 percent), T 6. Penn State (90 percent)

Student-Athletes (one-year federal, 2011-12 entering class)

Penn State: 82 percent

Division I:  68 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Minnesota, Northwestern (87 percent), 3. Penn State (82 percent)

Student-Athletes (four-year federal)

Penn State: 79 percent

Division I: 67 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (91 percent), 4. Penn State (79 percent)

Female Student-Athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 94 percent

Division I: 93 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (98 percent), T 10. Penn State (94 percent)

Male Student-Athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 87 percent

Division I: 82 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (97 percent), T 4. Penn State (87 percent)

Men’s Basketball Student-Athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 88 percent

Division I: 81 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Three schools (100 percent), 6. Penn State (88 percent)

Women’s Basketball Student-Athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 92 percent

Division I: 90 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Seven schools (100 percent), T 11. Penn State (92 percent)

Football Student-Athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 82 percent

Division I: 76 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Northwestern (99 percent), 7. Penn State (82 percent)

Men’s Hockey Student-Athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 100 percent

Division I: 90 percent

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

Women’s Volleyball Student-Athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 93 percent

Division I: 93 percent

Big Ten rankings: 1. Nine schools (100 percent), 10. Penn State (93 percent)

Wrestling Student-Athletes (four-year GSR)

Penn State: 100 percent

Division I: 78 percent

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

Last Updated November 14, 2018