Late last night, the Associated Press reported that the Associated Press released its own report that its graduation rates were higher than ever. The AP reported the story as "dispelling myths" that athletes aren't good students. But it's always a little suspicious when the organization releases a report that analyzes itself.
The NCAA says that "nearly four out of five student-athletes earn their diplomas on time, an all-time high." But when you examine what "on time" means, it looks at six-year graduation rates, not four-year rates. The analysis also excludes transfer students. The federal numbers for college athletes are significantly lower than the 79 percent graduation rate touted by the NCAA. The 2008 federal analysis shows that college athlete graduation rates hover closer to 60 percent for Division I (data that incidentally can be found on the NCAA's own website). They point out that female athletes outperform male athletes on graduation rates, but this is unsurprising, since this is also the case among non-athletes as well.
That's not to say that there aren't student athletes that are also excellent academics, and I understand that the NCAA is often fighting stereotypes about athletes. But the AP got spun here. The NCAA released its own statistics that are significantly different than federal numbers and expanding the definition of "on time" is to make its numbers look better.