Athletic Scholarships

Can a college or university reduce or cancel my scholarship during the academic year?

If a student-athlete is receiving institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability, that financial aid MAY be reduced or canceled during the period of award (e.g., during that year or term) only if the student-athlete:

• Renders himself or herself ineligible for intercollegiate competition; or
• Misrepresents any information on an application, letter of intent or financial aid agreement; or
• Commits serious misconduct which warrants a substantial disciplinary penalty (the misconduct determination must be made by the university's regular student disciplinary authority); or
• Voluntarily quits the sport for personal reasons. In this case, the student-athlete's financial aid may not be given to another student-athlete during the term in which the aid was reduced or canceled.

Institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability MAY NOT be reduced, canceled or increased during the period of award:

• Based on a student-athlete's ability, performance, or contribution to a team's success; or
• Because an injury prevents the student-athlete from participating; or
• For any other athletics reason.

How long does a scholarship last and can the college cancel my scholarship after the first year?

Aid based in any degree on athletics ability cannot be awarded in excess of one academic year; the decision of whether a student-athlete is awarded institutional financial aid is made on a year-by-year or term-by-term basis, depending on the regulations of the institution.

If a student-athlete is receiving institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability, the institution must notify the student in writing on or before July 1 whether the aid has been renewed or not renewed for the next academic year. This written notification comes from the institution's financial aid authority and not from the athletics department.

If the institution decides not to renew the aid, or is going to reduce the aid, the institution must notify the student-athlete in writing that he or she has the right to a hearing. This hearing is held before the institutional agency making the award.

Keep in mind that the decision to renew or not renew the financial aid is left to the discretion of the institution, to be determined with its normal practices for students generally.

How do Athletic Scholarships Work? (Click here for Printable Version)

Does the NCAA award athletic scholarships?
Individual schools award athletic scholarships, not the NCAA. Only Division I and II schools offer athletic scholarships. NCAA members provide more than $2 billion in athletics scholarships annually.

Is an athletic scholarship guaranteed for four years?
Athletic scholarships, like most merit-based scholarships, are limited to one academic year. The school must notify the student-athlete in writing by July 1 whether the athletic scholarship will be renewed for the next academic year. Schools have specific procedures for conducting appeal hearings. If an athletic scholarship is reduced, cancelled or not renewed, the school’s financial aid authority is required to notify the student in writing of the opportunity to request a hearing. In most cases, the coach decides who gets a scholarship, what it covers and whether it will be renewed.

What do athletics scholarships cover?
Per NCAA guidelines, full scholarships cover tuition and fees, room, board, and required course-related books. Many student athletes receive athletic scholarships that only cover a portion of these costs.

What is a full athletic scholarship worth these days?
It depends. At an in-state, public school in 2008, the NCAA estimates the average yearly value of a full scholarship at just under $14,000. For an out-of-state public institution, the average cost is approximately $24,000 per year. Full scholarships at private schools average slightly more than $32,000. But the real value of athletic scholarships is intangible. Without them, many student athletes would be unable to pursue their athletic and academic dreams.

Can student-athletes receive other non-athletic financial aid?
Yes. Thousands of student-athletes benefit from academic scholarships and need-based aid such as federal Pell Grants and the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund. Student-athletes and parents with questions should check with their athletic department or college financial aid office about what financial aid is permissible to accept.

Is an athletic scholarship the same thing as a national letter of intent?
No, but they are often confused with each other. The NLI seeks to limit recruiting pressure and promote amateurism but signing one is not a required step to earning an athletic scholarship. You can visit for more information about the NLI.

Do many high school athletes earn athletic scholarships?
Very few in fact. According to recent statistics, about two percent of high school athletes are awarded athletic scholarships to compete in college. Academic, not athletic, achievement is the most reliable path to success in life.

Do many NCAA student-athletes go on to play professionally?
Even fewer! Of the student-athletes participating in sports that have professional leagues, very few go on to be professional athletes.  In reality, most student-athletes depend on academics to prepare them for life after college.

Education is important. As the numbers show there are more than 400,000 NCAA student-athletes and most of them go pro in something other than sports. The following are the percentage of NCAA student-athletes who become professional athletes in specific sports:
Men’s Basketball - 1.2%
Women’s Basketball - 0.9%
Football - 1.7%
Baseball - 8.9%
Men’s Ice Hockey - 3.8%
Men’s Soccer - 1.6%

Updated June 21, 2011