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UL graduates on top

UL graduates on top

UL graduates on top

Louisiana’s student-athlete graduation rate No. 1 in state

Dan McDonald

It might surprise many sports fans to know what state institution graduated the highest percentage of its student-athletes in the NCAA’s most recent graduation-rate report.
That big whoop of happiness heard from Reinhardt Drive would answer the question.

The NCAA announced on Jan. 26 its second set of Graduation Success Rates, and out of Louisiana’s 13 Division I institutions the University of Louisiana had the highest GSR among athletes enrolling in the 1998-99 academic year.

According to the report, 66 percent of UL student-athletes enrolling that year had earned degrees as of August 2004, the most recent period available in the study. In that same six-year period, accounting only for athletes enrolling in that 1998-99 year, Tulane (65), McNeese State (56), Northwestern State (52) and Grambling (50) were the only other schools to graduate half of the enrolled athletes.
UL ranked third in the Sun Belt Conference in the GSR for that time period behind Denver (83), a private school, and North Texas (67).

"Obviously, this is something we’re very happy about," said interim athletic director David Walker. "I’m impressed with our kids’ performance in the classroom, but it’s also something that we have to continue to improve upon."

The GSR report also included each institution’s graduation rate for all students enrolling in 1998-99, and UL was the only school in both the state and the Sun Belt to graduate its student-athletes at a pace twice as high as the general student body. The GSR listed UL’s overall graduation rate from that year at 32 percent.

Nine of the state’s 13 schools and all but one of 13 Sun Belt members had student-athlete graduation rates higher than the general student body. Schools with GSR student-athlete rates below the general student population were Tulane (65 to 73), LSU (49 to 56), La. Tech (44 to 51) and Centenary (33 to 55) in Louisiana, and Florida International (44 to 47) in the Sun Belt.

It should be noted that the above figures are for only the most recent period in which students have had the allowed six years to matriculate toward degrees.

The January report also graded institutions on their graduation success over the four-year stretch in which the GSR has been in place. The four-year average tracks total numbers of scholarship athletes who arrived from high school or transferred from other colleges between the 1995-96 and the 1998-99 academic years.

UL’s numbers in the overall average aren’t quite as good. In that listing, 54 percent of enrolled athletes in those four years received degrees in the six-year window. That ranks tied for fourth among the state’s 13 schools, even with LSU and trailing Tulane (70), La. Tech (56) and Grambling (55).

Among Sun Belt schools, UL is also tied for fourth with Arkansas State and behind Denver (82) and Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic, both at 55 percent.

The Cajuns’ numbers are still significantly higher than the four-year overall student body percentage of 30 percent graduation. Tulane, LSU and Centenary in Louisiana and FIU, Troy and South Alabama had student-athlete graduation rates lower than their school’s general student population.

"The numbers show we’re showing improvement," Walker said. "The challenge is to continue that over a long period of time. It’s something that you can always improve on."

According to the NCAA, 62 percent of both the nation’s Division I and Division I-A student-athletes who enrolled in 1998-99 graduated within six years. That percentage was the same for the average of the preceding three years.

Graduation rates for all students at Division I schools was 60 percent and jumped to 64 percent at Division I-A schools for enrollees in 1998-99. In the four-year averages, 59 percent of all Division I students and 62 percent of Division I-A students earned degrees in six years.

The most recent GSR rates for all NCAA Division I instututions, as well as breakdowns by sport and race both nationally and for each school, are available on the NCAA’s web site at www.ncaa.org under Academics & Athletes/Eligibility & Recruiting.


Only four state schools’ student bodies had a higher graduation rate for the 1998-99 class than their student athletes: Tulane at 73 percent; LSU at 56 percent; La. Tech at 51 percent and Centenary at 55 percent.

The student body graduation rate for UL in that period was 32 percent.

Throughout the Sun Belt, only Florida International’s student body had a higher graduation rate for its 1998-99 class at 47 percent.

File downloads:

Sun Belt student-athlete graduation rate comparison
State student-athlete graduation rate comparison

Originally published February 12, 2006