University of Minnesota student-athlete graduation rates improved by 2 percentage points in the NCAA’s latest tally, and Gophers also topped the national average by 2 percentage points. Gophers posted a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 88 percent; the Division I average is 86 percent, also up two points from last year.

“The single greatest obligation we have to our student-athletes and their families is to ensure they receive the world-class education the University of Minnesota offers all of its students and leave here with their degree,” said interim athletic director Beth Goetz said.

The Gophers’ 88 percent GSR is tied for fifth best in the Big Ten. Northwestern posted the best overall GSR at 97 percent; Purdue had the lowest, 84 percent.

The GSR is an average graduation rate for four consecutive freshman classes. This latest report is on student-athletes who were freshmen in the classes 2005-2008, and the percentage of those students who graduated within six years of starting school. The GSR excludes players who transfer in good academic standing.

All 11 women’s teams posted GSR figures of 80 percent or higher, with basketball, gymnastics, soccer, tennis and volleyball all scoring a perfect 100 percent. On the men’s side, eight programs posted GSRs of 80 percent or higher, with gymnastics (100), tennis (100), wrestling (96), swimming (90), basketball (90) and track and field/cross-country (90) the highest performing teams.

The football team had the lowest GSR, at 69 percent — the second-lowest score among the 14 Big Ten football programs. Michigan State (66 percent) was lower; Northwestern (97) was best. The men’s basketball team was sixth best in the Big Ten; Rutgers, Iowa and Penn State had perfect 100s in men’s hoops.

Minnesota’s overall GSR has jumped 21 percent since the first GSR release in 2005.

Nationally, men’s basketball (77 percent) made a three-point jump, while football (75) remained flat. More good news for basketball nationally: The rate for black basketball players increased five points to 72 percent — both that percentage and the points gained are all-time highs.

The Federal Graduation Rate, which categorizes student-athletes who transfer from or leave an institution for any reason as non-graduates from their initial school, is the only metric that allows comparison between student-athletes and the general student body.

Staff reports