How Much Spare Change Will You Need?
The average cost of college tuition today with room and board is about $25,000 annually at an in-state public university and around $40,000 annually at a private school not including the purchases of books, fees, and spending money, let alone airfare if your student athlete is out of state.The price tag for a college education increased 53% for public schools and 47% for private above inflation between 1994 and 2004. This college tuition cost is not going to get less! Are college sports scholarships something to think about for your future college athlete? Might these scholarships provide a little spare education change?
That is what we were facing five years ago with a high school senior who decided to play college basketball very late. But our daughter was not the elite athlete; in fact, her high school coach considered her a D-III athlete at best, possibly D-II if she stretched. We had not even thought about college sports scholarships because no coach was knocking on her door! And, in fact, today, universities and colleges have reduced the recruiting budgets for college coaches; they cannot personally recruit as many potential college athletes as before. If you are the parent of a student athlete who is not the top superstar, then it is likely you and your student athlete will have to search for sports scholarships yourselves. Your prospective college athlete will have to do his or her own recruiting to help reduce the high price of college tuition today.
Who Gets to Play?
In our research to figure out how we would find her a college sports scholarship and reduce that tuition bill, we found out that about 5% of high school athletes go on to play college sports. We also discovered there are sports scholarships beyond the “usual suspects” of football, basketball, baseball and volleyball, and not just in the NCAA! And, we learned that high school student athletes can find academic scholarships at great D-III schools that have highly competitive sports programs.
We did not want our daughter to be one of the student athletes in the 95% category that do not get to be a college athlete! She had the desire, the work ethic, and the talent. We developed a process to help her and she received a walk-on offer at a Big East D-I University in Chicago, two D-III academic scholarships, and, eventually, a D-I scholarship at a West Coast Conference school.
What we found in our research, online and personal ~ talking with college coaches, high school counselors, athletic directors and other parents ~ was that most of the emphasis is on the elite future college athlete, the one coaches actively recruit. There seems to be less effort put into those athletes who are talented, but are not maybe the superstars. These may be young athletes who are not the starters on their high school teams, suffered injuries or are late bloomers. We also saw other high school athletes whom we came across that either did not know how to begin their search for an athletic scholarship (D-I and D-II) or the academic scholarship at D-III. Or, their parents were really not knowledgeable about the world of college athletics.
College Athletics — Play to Earn an Education!
And, what we found is that there was a lot of information about the athletic scholarships, but not much about how to find a solid academic program along with that athletic scholarship. Most college athletes do not go on to play in the pros, so the object of the athletic scholarship is to help the student athlete continue to play his or her sport while also earning a college education. And, we happen to think that is still very valuable. Universities and colleges are beginning to recognize the end game — getting a good education to prepare for the “game” of life. Even the NCAA is increasingly looking at the student in the word student athlete.
I came across a recent article in a national magazine that basically was saying athletic scholarships are not all that they are cracked up to be. The author stated that the average college scholarship is about $10,000 and, if you extract the men’s sports, that scholarship reduces to $8,000; the only full scholarships are for football, basketball and volleyball. The author also stated that there is no such thing as a four-year athletic scholarship and coaches can pull scholarships for a variety of factors. True enough; scholarships are given for only one year and most sports scholarships are partial, with colleges and parents piecing together the puzzle with loans and other financial aid packages. It was a rather doom and gloom article. We have a little different view. When our daughter received offers of two approximately $12,000 academic scholarships to two D-III schools where she would have played basketball, that was $12,000 off of a $33,000 tuition bill. I don’t know about you, but I will take that any day!
Caveat Emptor! Like Anything Else — Do Your Homework and Use Common Sense!
Although the world of college athletics is not for the faint of heart and there are certainly unscrupulous programs and coaches, if one uses common sense and goes into this college search process with eyes open and a realistic picture of the level of talent, the search for a college sports scholarship, given an effective plan and process, should produce some good results. We were neophytes when we started this effort on behalf of our daughter, but we have to say the coaches with whom we talked and met were straight shooters and gave us honest answers to all of our inquiries. And, yes, we know of student athletes who have not been treated very well, with scholarships yanked because coaches were changed or the school wanted to go in a different direction. But, we also know of student athletes who were able to stay all four years at a college and play for most of those years and gain a good solid education, something they might not have had if that athletic scholarship had not at least reduced some of the college bill.
We would encourage the student athletes out there or the parents of student athletes to take a look at college sports scholarships (or academic scholarships at D-III schools) as a way to pay part of that ever increasing college tuition bill. And, the college athletic search will take you beyond the NCAA, to the NAIA, NCCAA, NJCAA, or other community college associations and will provide a much greater choice of academic programs available. There are great colleges and universities out there of all shapes and sizes to fit the interests of the potential college athlete. The key is just to start and do not listen to all the naysayers. You just might be pleasantly surprised.