Statistics released last week by the National Collegiate Athletic Association show that 98 percent of Duke’s student-athletes graduate within six years of entering the University, an increase from 97 percent last year.

Duke’s rate ranks as the highest Graduation Success Rate in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Nationally, the GSR increased two points to 86 percent. The rate represents the highest ever for the NCAA and included improvements across several gender and racial minority categories.

“It’s difficult to say with certainty why the rate has increased, however, the Division I members have adopted a number of academic reforms in that time period,” said Michelle Hosick, associate director of public and media relations for the NCAA.

The GSR modifies the student data colleges report to the federal government by excluding data from students who leave a school in good academic standing without graduating. It is calculated from the total cohort entering college between 2005 and 2008. Duke’s Federal Graduation Rate for the 2008-2009 cohort, also released last week, is 89 percent.

Hosick explained the high graduation rate was driven by several factors, including “enhanced academic criteria for incoming freshmen, strengthened progress-toward-degree requirements and the Academic Progress Rate, a real-time metric that tracks team success every term and has penalties associated with it for teams who don’t meet benchmarks.”

Of Duke’s 26 varsity sports, 20 reported a perfect GSR of 100 percent: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country and track, crew and rowing, men’s and women’s fencing, men’s golf, field hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s swimming and diving and volleyball.

Six programs’ rates were less than 100 percent: football at 94 percent, men’s soccer at 89 percent, men’s swimming and diving at 97 percent, wrestling at 96 percent and women’s golf at 80 percent.

The NCAA measures graduation success using the GSR instead of the FGR in order to not “penalize colleges whose student-athletes transfer in good academic standing,” according to their website. The FGR, which includes student-athletes who left school early, is 56 percent for Duke men’s basketball.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill posted a GSR of 85 percent, down a point from last year, and North Carolina State University jumped two points to 83 percent. UNC men’s and women’s basketball reported an 80 percent and 85 percent GSR, respectively, and NC State men’s and women’s basketball teams reported 67 percent and 85 percent, respectively. Their football team reported a GSR of 70 percent, and UNC’s posted a 62 percent rate, the lowest in the ACC.