By Hans Zhong
In 2005, The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rolled out a new system to calculate student-athletes graduation rate, called the Graduation Success Rate (GSR). Before, the NCAA had been using the Department of Education system, known as the Federal Graduation Rate (FGR), to calculate the student-athletes’ graduation rate. However, the NCAA claimed the government’s statistics were misleading, so they created their own system which they believe is a more accurate reflection of student-athletes’ academic progress. So which one is actually giving us the more accurate picture of student-athletes graduation rate?
The FGR system is simpler. It simply asks whether the student-athletes enrolled at the school graduate within six years. A student-athlete who does not receive a diploma at that institution for whatever reasons, including transferring to another school, will be counted against the institution’s FGR. This is an unfair strike against schools because colleges can’t stop people from transferring. Also, the FGR system ignores student-athletes who transfer in and go on to graduate. What’s the point of calculating a school’s graduation rate if they are not going to include some of the students who actually attend and graduate from the school?
The NCAA’s GSR is designed to eliminate these unfair strikes against a school. The system states that student-athletes who leave the school would be eliminated from the denominator as long as they would’ve been academically eligible to compete the following semester and those who transferred in would be included. Problem solved? What about those students-athletes who decided to leave school so they can play professional ball? They chose not to continue their education, so we know they won’t be receiving their diplomas. In other words, they dropped out of school and dropouts should be counted against the school’s graduation rate because we know they won’t be graduating from the school.
The dilemma here is that both the Federal and NCAA’s way of calculating graduation rates does not necessarily tell the entire story. Neither actually gives the true graduation rate for student-athletes. What should we do? Unfortunately, it is hard to create a system that perfectly calculates graduation rates because there is no agreement on what to include and what not to include. The current systems are imperfect, but the only thing we could do is to accept these numbers because they are currently the best measurements available. However, when using these figures, just keep in mind that both systems have flaws.
Hans Zhong is an economics and math major at SUNY Stony Brook and summer intern for the Center for College Affordability & Productivity.