College athletes are graduating at a record pace nationwide, continuing an upward trend that dates to the early 2000s, according to data released Wednesday.
The NCAA reported that its Graduation Success Rate hit an all-time high of 87% based on the 2014-2017 graduating classes at Division I schools.
That number represents a 1 percentage point bump over last year and was pushed upward by an increase of 3 percentage points for African American athletes across all sports.
NCAA President Mark Emmert called it "a significant achievement," adding that "our student–athletes and member schools should be proud of the work they are doing."
Football players at big-time Football Bowl Subdivision schools graduated at a 76% rate. The rate for men's basketball players at that level was 77%.
The Graduation Success Rate was created to account for athletes who leave school early while in good academic standing. Under the traditional federal graduation rate, such students are counted as failures. The NCAA measurement also gives teams credit for athletes who arrive as transfers and succeed in the classroom.
"As colleges and universities, we have a responsibility to prepare our students to excel both on and off the field of play," said John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University and chair of the Division I Committee on Academics.
Among local universities, the UCLA and USC athletic departments reported an overall Graduation Success Rate of 86%. The Bruins football team had an 83%, well above the national FBS average. The Trojans graduated at a 73% rate in that sport.
Both schools were below the overall Division I average of 78% in men's basketball. UCLA reported 44% and USC 50%.
Pepperdine had an 89% overall rate, with UC Irvine reporting 88%. Cal State Northridge (79%), UC Riverside (78%) and Cal State Fullerton (76%) had lower numbers.