INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New graduation numbers show college athletes continue to graduate at higher rates than overall students.
On Thursday, the NCAA released its annual Graduation Success Rate report that shows college athletes who entered school from 2011-12 through 2014-15 graduated at a rate of 89%, 21 points higher than the federal graduation rate — and well above the 80% goal set by late NCAA President Myles Brand when he first introduced the report in 2002.
The single-year calculation of 90% also matched last year's record high.
NCAA numbers include athletes who remain academically eligible and graduate after transferring. The federal numbers do not count students who graduate from a school other than the one where they first enrolled.
The two-decade comparisons were up across the board.
The overall rate increased by 16 percentage points over the past 20 years while the percentage of Black athletes earning diplomas went from 56% to 80%; 94% of Hispanic athletes also are now graduating, a 13-point increase since 2002.
“Today’s announcement proves college athletes take seriously their status as students," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "We celebrate them and their achievements and will continue to support them as the NCAA modernizes its rules to benefit them.”
Critics contend the NCAA numbers do not accurately reflect actual graduation results.
Individual sports have seen similar jumps when compared to 2002.
The percentage of Division I men's basketball players increased by 28 points to 84% with wrestlers going up 24 points to 86% and baseball players improving 23 points to 88%. Football Bowl Subdivision players followed the trend, seeing their numbers increase 18 points to 81%.
While this year's rate among FBS players held steady at 81%, the percentage of Division I women’s basketball players earning diplomas increased by 2 percentage points to 94%.
Female athletes also continue to outpace their male counterparts, 94% to 85%, but college administrators were impressed by the overall results.
“Division I student-athletes are succeeding in the classroom, and we celebrate their achievements along with them," said Dianne Harrison, the chair of the NCAA's committee on academics. "We want every student to achieve their full potential academically and earn their degree.”