The latest NCAA report on graduation rates shows Western Washington University student-athletes maintaining their consistent standards and once again graduating at rates well above the national average for NCAA Division II.
Data released by the NCAA shows that based on both the federally mandated graduation rate and the NCAA Academic Success Rate, WWU student-athletes who entered as part of the 2007-08 freshman class graduated at a rate 10 percent better than the national average for Division II.
The 2014 findings show 65 percent of Viking student-athletes received their degrees in six years or less based on the Federal Graduation Rate formula. That was higher than both the national average for NCAA II schools (55 percent), and the average of the nine U.S. schools in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (56 percent).
Using the NCAA Academic Success Rate, which includes all freshman student-athletes from the fall of 2007 and also accounts for student-athletes who transfer into or out of the institution, WWU posted an 86 percent success rate, 15 percentage points better than the NCAA II national number of 71 percent. The average ASR of the nine GNAC schools was 72 percent.
The 2014 Federal Graduation Rate Reports are based on student-athletes who entered universities during the 2007-08 academic year and graduated in six years or less. Student-athletes are defined as those "who received athletics aid" such as grants, scholarships, tuition waivers or other assistance from the institution upon initial enrollment.
The impressive showing is part of a long-term pattern for WWU, as its four-year (2004-2007) cohort for the federal report graduated at a 63 percent rate. The national ASR for the entering class of 2007 is 72 percent, up three points from last year's rate. The national four-year average ASR remained steady at 71 percent.
Making the WWU Athletics numbers even more impressive has been its success on the field. In 2013-14 the Vikings tied for 20th among 300 NCAA II schools in the Sports Director's Cup national all-sports standings, the seventh straight Top 20 finish for the Vikings, and WWU won its sixth consecutive GNAC All-Sports championship.
This is the ninth year the NCAA has released the ASR. The NCAA developed the Division II ASR at the request of college and university presidents who believed the federal graduation rate was flawed. Division II's ASR data takes transfer students into account and removes students who left the institution in good academic standing. In addition, given the partial-scholarship financial aid model of Division II, the ASR data includes student-athletes not on athletically related financial aid. The result is that ASR captures more than 35,000 non-scholarship student-athletes.
Even when utilizing the less-inclusive federal rate, Division II student-athletes perform significantly better than the general student body. The federal rate for Division II student-athletes in the 2007 entering class increased by one point to 55 percent, while the general student body held steady at 48 percent.
At the NCAA Convention in January 2014, the Division II membership approved a legislative package intended to increase student-athlete success and graduation rates. The package addresses a variety of academic standards, and includes adjustments to eligibility standards, progress-toward-degree requirements and standards for transfers from two-year colleges. These new requirements will take effect in 2016 and 2018.