Black Student Athletes Have Made Gains in Graduation Rates, But a Racial Gap Persists

Data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education and compiled by the National Collegiate Athletic Association shows graduation rates for all students who entered college between 2012 and 2015 and earned their degrees within six years at the same institution at which they enrolled. Of all students who enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs at NCAA Division I institutions between 2012 and 2015, 69 percent earned their degrees by 2021. For student scholarship athletes at Division I schools, the graduation rate was also 69 percent.

When we break the figures down by racial and ethnic group, we find that only 50 percent of Black students who entered these Division I schools between 2012 and 2015 and earned their degrees within six years at the same institution at which they enrolled. This was 21 percentage points lower than the rate for White students at these schools.

When we look at students on athletic scholarships, we find that 59 percent of Blacks who entered these Division I schools between 2012 and 2015 and earned their degrees within six years at the same institution at which they enrolled. For Whites student athletes, the graduation rate was 73 percent, producing a smaller racial gap of 14 percentage points.

The good news is that Black student athletes have made huge progress over the past 30 years in improving their graduation rates. In 1991, only 33 percent of Black male student athletes on scholarship earned their diplomas within six years. Today, the graduation rate for Black male student athletes is 55 percent. For Black women student athletes on scholarship, the graduation rate was 45 percent in 1991. Today, it is 67 percent.

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