By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech student-athletes posted impressive scores in the latest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) reports, released Wednesday afternoon by the NCAA. Tech has not only maintained a high level of success in the school's graduation rates overall, but the student-athlete graduation rates also continue to rank higher than those for the general TTU student body.
The current report gives graduation information about students and student-athletes entering in 2014. This is the most recent graduating class for which the required six years of information is available.
"We are proud that our student-athletes and coaches continue to make academic success a top priority," said Mark Wilson, TTU Director of Athletics, "and they understand the important role that athletics plays in serving the university and the surrounding community."
With an 85, Tech posted a GSR of 80 or higher for the seventh straight year and eighth time in the past nine years. The numbers shed light on how well Tech compares with other public institutions within the state, with schools in the Ohio Valley Conference, and nationally when compared with all Division I programs. The impressive GSR mark of 85 displays the continued and sustained growth by Golden Eagle student-athletes over the past several years. Tech ranked fifth in the state among public institutions in GSR.
"The results of this most recent NCAA report speak to the diligence of our student-athletes," Wilson said. "Our students are coming in better prepared when they enter Tennessee Tech, and they are staying on track to earn their degrees."
The GSR and FGR numbers of Tech's student-athletes continue to shine when compared with the numbers for the general student body. Nine of Tech's 14 athletic programs received a higher FGR than Tech's general student body graduation rate.
What makes the result for Golden Eagle student-athletes even more impressive, is the fact that Tennessee Tech's general student body boasted the second-highest graduation rate among all Division I public institutions in the state, finishing behind only the University of Tennessee.
"We never take these numbers for granted, and once again we are extremely proud of the results," Wilson said. "Tennessee Tech's student-athletes continue to do a tremendous job in balancing the rigorous demands of both academics and athletics."
Tennessee Tech has a GSR of 85 for the six-year period tracking students who entered in 2014. The school's GSR was 78 in 2011, 79 in 2012, 80 in 2013, 79 in 2014, 81 in 2015, 83 in 2016, 85 in both 2017 and 2018, 87 in 2019, and 84 in 2020.
The 63 percent one-year Federal Graduation Rate for Tech's student-athletes is six percentage points higher than the FGR of Tech's general student body, which is 57 percent for the 2014 incoming freshmen in the report. Tech's one-year FGR mark ranks the institution second in the Ohio Valley Conference. In the state of Tennessee, Tech's one-year FGR ranked fourth overall and second among public institutions. Tech's four-year FGR came in at 63 percent, nine points higher than the TTU student body's mark of 54 percent.
"When you compare the size of the staff devoted to academic support for student-athletes at Tech with the other state schools, the results are even more impressive," Wilson said. "While a few of our sister institutions within the state of Tennessee have considerably more academic advisors in their athletic academic support staff, we are achieving these results with a staff of four. That speaks volumes for the job that [Assistant A.D. for Academics and Student Welfare] Dr. Leveda Birdwell, her staff members, and our coaches do with stressing the importance of academic work to our student-athletes."
Birdwell added, "I have so much pride in our student-athletes at Tennessee Tech. They strive for excellence in both the classroom and athletically and work extremely hard to achieve at the highest level. When our athletic academic advising team meets with a prospective student, we talk extensively about the importance of being successful in the classroom at Tech. I tell our student-athletes, if they are performing well academically, they will naturally perform better athletically because they are not stressed about their school work."
The women's golf team achieved a rank of 100 on both the GSR and FGR, the first time posting a perfect score in either category in program history. For the second-straight year, both the softball team and volleyball team delivered GSR marks of 100. It marked the second time ever with a perfect score for the softball program and the ninth time overall for the volleyball program. The tennis team also boasted a GSR of 100 for the 11th time in program history.
Each of the women's golf, softball, tennis, and volleyball teams led the Ohio Valley Conference and state of Tennessee in GSR. The football and women's cross country and track & field programs also produced top-three showings in the league.
The latest GSR report reflects several other positive trends including a continued high rate of students in athletics making the Athletic Director's Honor Roll, high grade point average earned by Golden Eagle student-athletes, and numerous academic honors across all sports programs.
During the past several years, Tech's student-athletes have posted the highest combined GPA ever achieved at the University, earned a combined 3.0 GPA in 25 straight semesters, and filled the Athletic Director's Honor Roll with more than 200 student-athletes in 20 of the last 24 semesters. This includes each of the top-three totals of student-athletes on the AD Honor Roll in program history over the past four semesters alone.
The Golden Eagles posted a record-breaking 149 student-athletes on the OVC Commissioner's Honor Roll this past summer while in November, linebacker Seth Carlisle represented the sixth Tech student-athlete in the past six years to be named an OVC Scholar-Athlete Award winner, the top honor presented by the league.
"These most recent reports are continued good news for Tennessee Tech Athletics," said Tech Faculty Athletics Representative Dr. Jeff Roberts. "It verifies in numbers that we are successfully fulfilling our mission of graduating our student-athletes. One thing must not be forgotten… first and foremost, we are here to educate. Tech Athletics will strive to increase these scores even more in the future."
Complete NCAA Graduation Success Rate data for all Division I institutions can be accessed at www.ncaa.org.
Graduation Success Rate (GSR)
Graduation Success Rate (GSR) begins with the federal cohort and adds transfer students, mid-year enrollees, and non-scholarship students (in specified cases) to the sample. Student-athletes who leave an institution while in good academic standing before exhausting their athletics eligibility are removed from the cohort of their initial institution. This rate provides a more complete and accurate look at actual student-athlete success by taking into account the full variety of participants in Division I athletics and tracking their academic outcomes.
Federal Graduation Rate (FGR)
Federal Graduation Rate assesses only first-time full-time freshmen in a given cohort and only counts them as academic successes if they graduate from their institution of initial enrollment within a six-year period. It makes no accommodation for transfers into or out of an institution. The rate is very limited because it ignores the large number of transfer students in higher education, but it is still the only rate that allows a direct comparison between student-athletes and the general student body.