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NCAA Student-Athletes and Their Post-College Outcomes

NCAA Student-Athletes and Their Post-College Outcomes


The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) leadership and institutional members partnered with the Gallup organization to examine the long-term life outcomes of NCAA athletes post-graduation from college. Through the Gallup Alumni Survey, the largest national study of U.S. college graduates, responses from 4,889 student-athletes who graduated from college between 1975 and 2019 were compared to responses from non-athletes.

Highlights from the study include the following findings:

  • Former NCAA student-athletes are more likely to be thriving in their purpose, social, community, and physical wellbeing, and their financial wellbeing is comparable to non-athletes. These patterns persist regardless of NCAA division, graduation year, gender, race, and ethnicity.
  • NCAA student-athletes (39%) are more likely to earn an advanced degree than non-athlete peers (32%). This different is most pronounced among black graduates, with 49% of black student-athletes attaining an advanced degree versus 39% of black non-athletes.
  • NCAA student-athletes edge out their non-athlete peers in their ability (33%) to have a good job waiting for them after graduating (vs. 30% for non-athletes).
  • NCAA student-athletes (35%) are more likely to strongly agree their professors cared about them as a person than their non-athlete peers (28%).
  • NCAA student-athletes (27%) are more likely to strongly agree that they had a mentor in college who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams than their non-athlete peers (23%).
  • NCAA student-athletes (55%) are much more likely than their non-athlete peers (31%) to have held a leadership position in a club or organization.
  • NCAA student-athletes (70%) are more likely than their non-athlete peers (65%) to have graduated college in four years or less. They are half as likely to have taken more than five years to graduate (6% vs. 12%).
  • NCAA student-athletes (22%) are less likely to have transferred to the institution from which they graduated than their non-athlete peers (38%).

The 32-page Gallup report has many more findings than the ones highlighted. From a personal perspective as a former athlete and the parent of two current NCAA athletes, these findings are not surprising.

College sports teams provide a much smaller social group for an athlete than a non-athlete who is not a member of an active living group or fraternal organization. Participation in team practices, traveling to away games, and recognition on campus provides the athlete with a different experience than some non-athletes.

The athletic department academic support services — including tutoring, advising, and mentoring — typically exceed those services provided to non-athletes. By the time athletes talented enough to play college sports matriculate in college, they have developed the discipline to exercise, practice, and play a sport to the best of their ability.

That discipline can translate into other life skills. If a student-athlete can continue to participate in team activities through four years of college while earning a four-year degree, I believe they’ll have an edge in grad school or at work.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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