Review of Two Studies on College Athlete Graduation Rates

PEMD-85-9: Published: Sep 10, 1985. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed two studies of college athletes' graduation rates to determine: (1) whether the methodologies used to produce the studies were adequate; and (2) the relevance of the studies to proposed legislation that would require colleges to graduate at least 75 percent of their scholarship athletes within 5 years in order for contributions to their athletic departments to qualify as tax deductible.

GAO found that there were serious methodological problems in each study because: (1) generalizations could only be made for the schools that participated in each study; (2) the quality of the data in one study was poor; (3) inappropriate data analyses in each study limited the comparability of the graduation rates of athletes and other college students; and (4) neither of the studies provided a basis for drawing any conclusions about the relative graduation rates of athletes and other college students. In addition, GAO found that the studies had limited relevance to the proposed legislation because: (1) they did not report graduation rates for those athletes specifically targeted by the legislation; (2) one study did not analyze graduation rates by scholarship status; and (3) one study included athletes who attended institutions that did not offer athletic scholarships.