NCAA grad rate reaches record high of 82 percent

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The NCAA released its graduation rates annual report on Tuesday, proudly declaring that college athletes are finishing school at a record pace, outperforming non-athlete schoolmates at nearly all counts.

This is the first time that the graduation rate for incoming freshmen class of 2004-05 hit 82%, breaking the record of 79% in the last three reports. The four-class measure from 2001 to 2004 also hit a relatively high average of 80%, also breaking the record of 79% hit back in 2009 and 2010.

NCAA committee on academic performance chair Walter Harrison, also the president of the University of Hartford, commented that the findings are clear indicators of the success they have reached. He said he did not see percentage points in the figures as he saw real students who were “going off to lead successful lives,” having their chances improved compared to before they began the work.

Skeptics sometimes point the finger at NCAA for using a different way of calculating graduation rates than the way the federal government does. Indeed, both processes measure over a period of six years, but the government does not take transfer students into account.

Even with the difference, though, government calculations do indicate a record high of 65% of all athletes in Division I earning a degree, with only 63% for the student body on the overall. The NCAA does not have figures for the student population on the overall.

Of course, the high numbers may be attributed to a change in the parties included in the calculations: for the first time, Ivy League schools were included in the calculations. In previous years, these schools had not been part of the numbers, since they did not offer scholarships for athletes anyway.

The NCAA argues that even without the Ivy League schools in the calculations, the overall grad rate for one class would still have hit a high of 81%.

Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, as well as many others, is confident that the improved numbers are a direct result of the academic reforms of NCAA.

The NCAA began the reforms in 2003, with a change in the eligibility requirements both for college upperclassmen and incoming freshmen. High school seniors had to accomplish 16 core courses, while upperclassmen had to complete a greater percentage of school work to finish a degree in order to remain on scholarship.

During the first two years following the change, tougher standards were given. The biggest improvement was seen in black athletes in men’s basketball and football, with graduation rates for this demographic jumping 5 percentage points for football and 4 percentage points for men’s basketball.

This is translated to mean that 400 more black athletes who entered college in 2004-05 graduated with a degree.

Emmert described it as an incredible move, sharing that they had aimed for an 82% graduation rate but they had not known for sure if they could reach the figure within the timeframe they wanted.

He also admitted that this kind of progress did not happen overnight, and was instead a long process whose results they were definitely waiting to manifest.

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