Graduation rates for Division I athletes are up

Report cards are in, and the graduation rates for NCAA Division I student-athletes continue to improve slowly and steadily.

For the first time since the NCAA started tracking graduation rates in 1984, the graduation rate of Division I student-athletes reached 60 percent.

The study of Division I schools, which is federally mandated, is based on the class of incoming freshman student-athletes for the 1995-96 school year. The graduation rates are based on a six-year cycle for completing undergraduate degrees.

“This is very encouraging,” said Dr. Francis Lawrence, Rutgers president and chairman of the Division I Board of Directors Task Force on Academic Reform. “This is the first graduating class of student-athletes who were required to have 13 high-school core courses (up from 11) in order to participate in athletics as freshmen. The results show that we are on the right track.”

Nationally, graduation rates for men’s basketball continued to be troubling. The graduation rate for male basketball players in Division I increased to 43 percent, compared with 40 percent last year. And African American male basketball student-athletes had a 35 percent graduation rate, up from 31 percent last year.

The graduation rates for individual schools can be misleading, particularly for a sport such as men’s basketball, in which there are instances of players transferring. Also, a school’s recruiting class is usually fewer than five players, so the percentages are skewed when one or two players transfer or leave school early for the NBA Draft.