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College Athletes’ Graduation Rate Reaches All-Time High of 82%, NCAA Says

By Curtis Eichelberger
October 25, 2011 2:45 PM EDT

Student-athletes are graduating at a higher rate than any time since the National Collegiate Athletic Association began tracking figures a decade ago.

The single-year graduation rate for Division 1 athletes who began college in the fall of 2004 and were given six years to finish was a record 82 percent, according to college sports’ governing body. It was an average 80 percent for the previous four classes combined (2001-2004), which also set a record.

The news comes two days before the NCAA board is scheduled to vote on stricter graduation rules that would require sports teams to graduate 50 percent of their student-athletes to participate in postseason tournaments. If the rule was in place last year, men’s basketball champion University of Connecticut would have been ineligible to compete.

“Academic reform is working,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Some doubted our efforts, but the resolve of our presidents is strong, and we are reaping the fruit of several years of hard work.”

The NCAA graduation figures are usually higher than the federal graduation rate. The NCAA tracks students who transfer and midyear enrollees, whereas the federal numbers count them as not having graduated.

By following athletes as they move from one school to another, the NCAA increased the total number of students tracked by 37 percent to almost 105,000, the association said.

Women vs. Men

For classes entering school between 2001-2004, 88 percent of female student-athletes graduated, while 73 percent of males graduated, according to the NCAA.

The report also said athletes in football and men’s basketball are the least likely to graduate. The one-year rate for men’s basketball players entering in 2004 was 68 percent; two percentage points above the four-year average from 2001 to 2004. The women’s numbers were 86 percent for one year and 84 percent for the four-year average.

The one-year rate for Football Bowl Subdivision players, the top level of college football, was 69 percent, while the four-year average was 67 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Curtis Eichelberger in Washington at ceichelberge@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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