Penn State student-athletes deliver record 91% graduation rate

Penn State student-athletes continue to graduate well above their peers nationwide, delivering a third consecutive record academic performance, according to data announced by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student-athletes continue to graduate well above their peers nationwide, delivering a third consecutive record academic performance, according to data announced by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The NCAA's annual graduation rates study of institutions across the nation revealed Penn State student-athletes at the University Park campus earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 91% to break the school’s all-time record of 90%, which was previously set in the 2010, 2017 and 2018 NCAA reports. Nittany Lion students posted a 91% graduation rate compared to the 88% average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2009-10 through the 2012-13 academic year.

Penn State student-athletes have delivered a Graduation Success Rate in the 88% to 91% range during each of the past 13 NCAA reports, improving from 88% in the 2015 report, to 89% in 2016, to 90% in 2017 and 2018, and a record-breaking 91% figure in 2019.

Eighteen of the Nittany Lions’ 27 teams (men’s and women’s track and field/cross country teams combined) earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the Division I national GSR average for their respective sport. A total of 19 Penn State squads have a GSR of 90% or higher.

“Our student-athletes enrich our university with their leadership in academics and athletics. I’m proud that they have raised the bar among their peers nationwide, and even prouder that they work hard every day to earn a diploma that is valued worldwide,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “Congratulations to our students, coaches, faculty and advisors on setting an all-time record at Penn State, and thank you for your commitment to excellence.”

“We continually strive for comprehensive excellence at Penn State and this record-breaking graduation rate shows our student-athletes continue to perform at a high level in the classroom, in competition and in the community,” Penn State Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour said. “Our student-athletes, coaches, staff and administration have always put a high value on academic excellence and this graduation rate shows our commitment to Penn State’s values and is an important piece of our Penn State story. To have 10 teams with a perfect report, including two teams who have done so for 15 consecutive years, illustrates how academic success can work in concert with success in athletic competition. I am grateful for our students, coaches and staff who clearly prioritize academic achievement, and our phenomenal community that supports our historic standard of excellence in the classroom.”

Ten teams post 100% GSR scores; field hockey and women’s tennis perfect for 15th consecutive year; total of 19 squads at 90% or higher

The NCAA data revealed student-athletes from 10 Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100%, while an additional nine teams posted a graduation rate of 90% or higher, for a total of 19 teams at or above 90%.

The 10 Nittany Lion squads posting 100% Graduation Success Rate scores were: men’s fencing, field hockey, women’s golf, men’s gymnastics, men’s hockey, women’s hockey, women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and wrestling. 

The field hockey and women’s tennis teams earned a 100% GSR for the 15th consecutive year — every year since the NCAA implemented the release of Graduation Success Rate data in 2005. The women’s golf squad posted a 100% GSR for the fourth straight year and the men’s and women’s hockey teams had a perfect GSR score for the third consecutive year that they’ve been eligible.

NCAA champion wrestlers earn 100% Graduation Success Rate – 21 points above Division I average

The wrestling squad, which has won eight of the past nine NCAA Championships, delivered its second-straight 100% GSR, which is 21 points higher than the Division I average.

Eleven Nittany Lion squads improved their four-year GSR score from last year’s NCAA Graduation report, led by the men’s fencing (+20), women’s fencing (+15), men’s gymnastics (+8), women’s soccer (+5), football (+4), women’s swimming & diving (+4), men’s volleyball (+4), men’s basketball (+2), men’s golf (+2), men’s lacrosse (+1) and women’s lacrosse (+1) teams.

Eighteen Penn State squads at or above national GSR sport average

Among the 18 Nittany Lion teams at or above the Division I sport average, 12 squads posted Graduation Success Rates that were at least five points higher than the national average for their sport:

  • Wrestling – 100% to 79% (+21)
  • Football –  86 to 78 (+8)
  • Men’s Hockey – 100 to 92 (+8)
  • Men’s Tennis – 100 to 92 (+8)
  • Baseball – 91 to 84 (+7)
  • Men’s Basketball – 90 to 83 (+7)
  • Men’s Gymnastics – 100 to 93 (+7)
  • Men’s Fencing – 100 to 94 (+6)
  • Women’s Soccer – 100 to 94 (+6)
  • Women’s Golf – 100 to 95 (+5)
  • Men’s Lacrosse – 94 to 89 (+5)
  • Women’s Tennis – 100 to 95 (+5)

Basketball and football programs continue to exceed national averages

For the 10th consecutive year, the Penn State football (86% compared to 78%), Nittany Lion basketball (90 to 83) and Lady Lion basketball (92 to 91) teams all earned four-year Graduation Success Rates higher than the national average for their respective sports.

Federal graduation rate 10 points above Division I average; No. 4 in Big Ten

In addition to releasing each institution's overall four-year Graduation Success Rate, the NCAA also released the federal graduation rates for students and student-athletes as it has for the past 28 years. The four-year federal graduation rate average for University Park student-athletes was 78%, No. 4 among Big Ten institutions, which was significantly above the 68% Division I average.

The four-year average for University Park students was 85%, exceeding the 66% rate for all students nationwide by 19 points.

Single-year student-athlete federal graduation rate 10 points higher than Division I average; tied for No. 3 in Big Ten

The entering class of 2012-13 Nittany Lion students earned an 85% single-year federal graduation rate that was three points higher than the single-year rate for the 2011-12 entering class and 17 points higher than the Division I average.

Student-athletes entering Penn State in 2012-13 posted a single-year rate of 78%, which is 10 points higher than the Division I average of 68%. The 78% single-year rate is tied for third in the Big Ten.

This is the 29th annual release of institutional graduation rates since national "right-to-know" legislation was passed in 1990. In 2005, the NCAA Division I Committee on Academic Performance implemented the initial release of the team GSR data.

The GSR is the NCAA's more inclusive calculation of academic success among scholarship student-athletes. The NCAA rate is more accurate than the federally mandated methodology because it includes incoming transfers and students enrolling in the spring semester who receive athletic aid and graduate, and deletes from the calculation student-athletes who leave an institution and were academically eligible to compete. The federal rate does neither.

Last Updated November 19, 2019