Cullowhee, N.C. - Statistics for the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) released Tuesday by the NCAA indicated that 82-percent of freshmen student-athletes receiving scholarship aid at Western Carolina University successfully graduate within six years. The GSR is based on the 2004-07 cohort which allowed student-athletes six years to graduate.
Four Catamount programs had a perfect 100 in the Graduation Success Rate - women's basketball, women's golf, women's soccer and women's tennis - with six recording 90-or-better.
The Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) - which only looks at students entering school in the fall semester of the first year of the cohort - again from the 2004-07 cohort, is 54-percent. The FGR does not reflect students who transfer into an institution or begin as freshmen at midyear each January, while also penalizing institutions for students who, while in good academic standing, transfer to other schools.
WCU's athletic programs all had over 61-percent GSR in the most recent report, while all but four were above the 50-percent mark in FGR for the 2006-07 cohort.
Western Carolina did have a single-year (2007-08) federal graduation rate of 44-percent.
"While I certainly am not happy with our 2007 cohort's graduation rate of 44 percent among student-athletes, our subsequent examination of the data has revealed that this is a one-year anomaly," said WCU Director of Athletics Randy Eaton in a statement. "In the spring of 2008, the Western Carolina Athletics Department hired both a new head football coach and a new head volleyball coach. Anytime there is a coaching change, athletics programs across the country typically see a higher-than-normal percentage of student-athletes in those affected sports leave for a myriad of reasons. This is clearly what we saw happen after the changes in our coaching staffs in the 2008 spring semester."
In the fall of 2007, WCU had 70 incoming freshmen on scholarship; of this number, 29 were entering freshmen on the football and volleyball teams. Of those 29, only seven graduated from WCU while the remaining 41 entering freshmen on all other teams graduated at a rate of 59%.
"Looking forward to the 2008 cohort, early research indicates that the WCU Athletics Program will once again have a Federal Graduation Rate percentage ranging in the mid-50s, similar to results we have seen over the past decade. While this rate is better than the 2007 cohort's rate of 44 percent, it is still not where we need to be as a department," said Eaton.
He added, "I, along with all of the coaches and administrators within the WCU Athletics Department, remain focused and committed to graduating each and every one of our student-athletes. We will continue to monitor the progress of our student-athletes and work with the campus community to ensure we are recruiting students who are academically prepared for college and, once enrolled, who are focused on maintaining our priority of graduating every student-athlete."
Overall, Southern Conference tied for the highest women's basketball GSR in the nation with a perfect score of 100 percent. Women's basketball programs have recorded a GSR of 93-or-better in three of the last four years. The league's men's basketball teams earned a GSR of 83-percent, which was the seventh-best mark in NCAA Division I. The score of 83 also represented a seven-point increase over last year's 76.
SoCon football programs earned a 77 percent GSR which ranked as the ninth-highest figure in the nation.
Developed by the NCAA as part of its academic reform initiative, the GSR is used to assess the academic success of student-athletes. The GSR measures graduation rates at Division I institutions and includes students transferring into the institutions. The GSR also allows schools to subtract student-athletes who leave their institutions prior to graduation as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete had they remained.
ABOUT THE GSR
The Graduation Success Rate was developed by the NCAA as part of its academic reform initiative to more accurately measure the success of Division I student-athletes.
The GSR takes into account the many different academic paths followed by today's college students.
Unlike the federal graduation rate, the GSR holds institutions accountable for transfer students. The GSR also accounts for midyear enrollees and is calculated for every sport.
By counting incoming transfer students and midyear enrollees, the GSR increases the total number of student-athletes tracked for graduation by approximately 37 percent.
Under the GSR calculation, institutions are not penalized for outgoing transfer students who leave in good academic standing. These outgoing transfers are essentially passed to the receiving institution's GSR cohort.
The NCAA also calculates the federal graduation rate for student-athletes, because it is the only rate to compare student-athletes to the general student body.
This year marks the 13th year of GSR data that have been collected. The NCAA began collecting GSR data with the entering freshman class of 1995. The latest entering class for which data are available is 2007.