The graduation success rate of NCAA student-athletes reaches an all time high

by Olivia Dolan 9

December 09th, 2020 College

The NCAA Division I graduation success rate reached 90%, Division II graduation rates reached 74%, and Division III hit 87% according to a study found on the NCAA website.

Sports 2017-2020 four-class average graduation success rates for men are as follows

  • Skiing-96%
  • Gymnastics-93%
  • Ice Hockey-92%
  • Tennis-92%
  • Fencing-91%
  • Lacrosse-91%
  • Water polo-91%
  • Golf-90%
  • Rifle-90%
  • Swimming-90%
  • Volleyball-89%
  • Soccer-86%
  • Baseball-85%
  • Basketball-84%
  • Cross country/track-83%
  • Wrestling-81%
  • Football (FBS)-80%
  • Football (FCS)-78%

Sports 2017-2020 four-class average graduation success rates for women are as follows

  • Ice hockey-98%
  • Skiing-98%
  • Lacrosse-97%
  • Field hockey-96%
  • Golf-96%
  • Swimming-96%
  • Tennis-96%
  • Gymnastics-95%
  • Rowing 95%
  • Fencing-94%
  • Soccer-94%
  • Volleyball-94%
  • Water polo-94%
  • Basketball-92%
  • Softball-92%
  • Cross country/track-91%
  • Bowling-89%

The GSR ratings measure the percentage of athletes who graduate within 6 years of beginning their college careers, excluding student-athletes that transfer from a school while academically eligible and including student-athletes who transfer to a school. 

These ratings are the highest they have been, with a 16% increase since the creation of the graduation success rate system in 2002. This system was created by the Division I board of directors to keep track of the academic success rate of their athletes.

These results far surpass the goal of an 80% graduation success rate by 2020, put in place by NCAA President Myles Brand in 2006.

The graduation success rate of NCAA athletes is also higher than the rate of the student body not involved in an NCAA sport. In all demographics, except white males, NCAA athletes had a higher graduation rate than the student body at large.

The NCAA says that new rules and regulations have led to the improvement of the academic success rate of their athletes.

Among those new regulations, the standards for initial NCAA eligibility have been raised.16 NCAA-approved courses must be taken throughout high school, and a combined SAT or ACT score must match your core GPA (a minimum of 2.300) on the NCAA full-qualifier scale.

Student-athletes also must meet yearly standards set in place by NCAA in order to compete, motivating athletes to continue academic success. Beginning this academic year, NCAA made the change to reward schools in the form of revenue based on athletes’ academic success. There is no restrictions on the money earned.

This new form of reward benefits schools in which student-athletes graduate, and shows NCAA’s focus is on the students. According to NCAA, each school has the capability of earning an academic achievement per year if students-athletes meet one of the requirements: earn an overall, single year, all academic progress rate of 985 or higher, earn an overall graduation success rate of 90% or higher, or earn a federal graduation rate that is at least 13% higher than the federal graduation rate of the student body at that site.


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2 years ago

I assume that many of these athletes don’t work jobs to pay for college. I also assume that a high percentage of these athletes are on scholarship and have no money worries over housing and food. What percent of these student athletes complain of high levels of stress related to completing homework on time, taking exams etc?

Last edited 2 years ago by Rob
3 years ago

These numbers need to have a 2nd column that compares to general student body graduation rate and show if this is better

Then dive into starting salary and salary after 10 years. Too bad the USDofEducation only publishes data for those who had student loans, this may be hard data to get for student athletes

Last metric. Propensity to Donate to the school. Athlete/non athlete.

Ready go…

3 years ago

I think a lot of this high success with GPA last year probably had lot to do with all schools going online and taking finals online….due to pandemic.

Inclusive Parent
3 years ago

Six year graduation rate??? I better not have to pay for six years. Change that….
I WON’T be paying for six years.

Reply to  Inclusive Parent
3 years ago

As someone in higher education, six years is the standard across all metrics not just athletics. For all college students ONLY 58% graduate in six years or less. This article highlights how many student athletes graduate in the same time frame- as you can see athletes graduate at a far better rate than non-athletes. A very good reason to keep supporting athletics. One reason many students do take longer to graduate nation-wide is many of them have to work to pay for their education, so they take fewer than full-time credit loads, we have many more 1st gen students, who get less support from parents (financial and social) and don’t understand the work load required (I hear many stories of… Read more »

Captain Ahab
3 years ago

That’s because college is a lot easier with blackboard, online classes, younger professors and teachers, and the class subjects.

Reply to  Captain Ahab
3 years ago

Clearly you are not a college student…

3 years ago


O Swimmer
3 years ago

THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO STOP COLLEGE PROGRAMS FROM BEING CUT!!!! All college sports create great work ethic in these young people and sets them up for success and it’s worth fighting for.