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By Jon Terry
LEWISBURG, Pa. — The Bucknell Bison have claimed the second best graduate rate in the nation, according to the NCAA's annual student-athlete graduate-rate survey released on Thursday. Bucknell's four-class average for student-athletes entering between 2002-03 and 2005-06 ranks second nationally among all Division I programs, using both the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate (GSR) formula and the U.S. Department of Education's standard for graduation rates. || Read more about the NCAA's GSR rates
The GSR differs from the federal graduation-rate formula in that the GSR factors in transfer students who do graduate, and does not penalize schools for losing transfers who leave in good academic standing. Bucknell's GSR of 99 percent trails only Dartmouth's 100-percent rate, and Bucknell's figure is up from 97 percent one year ago.
All but two Bison sports programs have perfect 100 percent GSR ratings. Every Bucknell women's program has a perfect GSR score, and the Bison men's basketball team is one of 33 out of 340 Division I programs to boast a GSR of 100.
The Bucknell football team just missed a perfect score, but its GSR of 98 percent ranks third nationally, behind only Dartmouth and Columbia.
According to the federal standards, Bucknell has a four-class average graduation rate of 91 percent. Only Stanford at 92 percent came in higher (note that the Ivy League and military academies do not report federal graduation rates). Notre Dame also has a 91-percent graduation rate, while Davidson and Holy Cross were the only other programs in the nation to reach 90 percent.
Bucknell's student-athlete graduation rate of 91 percent is slightly higher than the university's general student body graduation rate of 90 percent.
By the federal guidelines, 10 Bison varsity programs boast perfect 100-percent graduation rates. Those programs are men's basketball, men's and women's golf, men's soccer, men's swimming and diving, men's and women's water polo, women's rowing, women's lacrosse and women's tennis. Bucknell is one of only six Division men's basketball programs with a perfect percentage, joining Belmont, Davidson, Georgia State, Utah State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Bucknell improved from its position in last years's survey, in which the Bison ranked fourth nationally with a graduation rate of 89 percent.
Bucknell has topped the nation in graduation rates on several occasions, including in 2003, when it received a USA Today-NCAA Academic Achievement Award with a perfect 100 percent.
Each spring, the NCAA releases a separate set of data, called the Academic Progress Rate (APR), which measures both academic performance and retention. Each program receives an APR score, with teams falling under a certain threshold subject to penalties such as loss of scholarships and postseason bans. The top 10 percent in each sport receive APR Public Recognition Awards from the NCAA — an honor 17 of Bucknell's programs received last June, the fourth-highest total in all of Division I. All of Bucknell's programs easily met the NCAA minimum standard, and 15 maintained perfect scores.
Bucknell sponsors 27 intercollegiate sports at the Division I level. It is a charter member of the Patriot League and has won the league's all-sports championship in 17 of the 22 years it has been contested. Bucknell ranks fifth in Division I in producing Academic All-Americans.