Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Over 170,000 students participate annually in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I sports. Approximately one-third of these student-athletes fail to graduate from their initial school of enrollment within six years. While some will go on to graduate from a transfer institution, roughly 15% will fail to earn a degree while competing for an NCAA Division I school. Using U.S. census block group data, this study adds the neighborhood characteristics of education, employment, income, and racial composition to prediction models of first-year GPA and six-year baccalaureate degree attainment among an NCAA Division I student-athlete sample. The use of multilevel modeling accounted for nesting of student-athletes within institutions and controlled for the potential of group effects on individual outcomes. Improving the statistical models used to predict academic outcomes among NCAA student-athletes will help to ensure that they are properly evaluated for the potential to be academically successful and enable early identification of those with heightened academic risk. Early identification can help institutions direct relevant academic support services to those most in need, and in some cases, consider the potential of an academic redshirt year.

The findings indicate that while consideration of the educational attainment of the neighborhood adds to the predictive ability of first-year GPA, the meaningful impact is quite small. Cost-benefit analyses may reveal that the added burden of data collection and reduction in transparency is not worth the minimal addition of explained variance in the outcome, particularly in light of the lack of a significant relationship with the other outcomes.