INDIANAPOLIS -- College athletes are graduating at an all-time high rate, the NCAA said Thursday.
Eighty-two percent of athletes in the 2006-07 freshman class earned a diploma within six years, up one percentage point from the 2005-06 class. That matched a record.
Graduation rates over the four-year measure, which covers freshmen who entered school between 2003-04 and 2006-07, hit 81 percent, also a one percentage point increase and another record, the NCAA said.
Why the jump?
Graduation rates among black female athletes improved from 76 percent in 2005-06 to 78 percent in 2006-07. And football players in the Bowl Subdivision topped last year's record-high of 70 percent by hitting 71 percent. White players in the FBS made a 4-percentage point jump, to 84 percent, while the rate among black FBS players improved from 62 percent to 64 percent.
The report also showed percentages among athletes in some sports regressed.
After 6 percentage point jump to 74 percent in last year's report, all men's basketball players in the one-year measure dropped to 72.9 percent this year. Still, it is the first time Division I college basketball players have had to back-to-back years at 70 percent or better.
The federal government report also shows the two biggest money-making college sports -- football and men's basketball -- continue to lag behind almost all others when it comes to graduation rates.
According to the four-year federal numbers, men's basketball players are graduating at a rate of 47 percent while FBS football players have a grad rate of 58 percent and Football Championship Subdivision players are at 56 percent. Of the 35 sports that were measured, only three others -- baseball (48 percent), women's bowling (53 percent) and wrestling (56) -- had a grad rate under 60 percent.
The NCAA began tracking graduation rates with the 1995-96.
The biggest explanation for the difference is the NCAA includes the academic performance of transfer students at their new schools. Though the federal numbers do not, they have consistently showed college athletes are more likely to earn degrees than the overall student body. This year is no different as the federal numbers showed 65 percent of athletes earned degrees compared with 64 percent of other students.
Critics contend that the federal numbers are more accurate. They also suggest college athletes receive more financial help than other students and have more access to tutors and other academic help, provided by the athletic department.