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Student-Athlete Benefits

The NCAA funds many programs that directly support the educational, financial, and health and safety needs of student-athletes.

The educational benefits include scholarship programs (including the Association-wide postgraduate scholarship program, now in its fifth decade), degree-completion grants and internships.

Among the primary financial benefits is the NCAA Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program, which assists student-athletes and other athletics participants who suffer catastrophic injuries while participating in an intercollegiate athletics activity. The NCAA also provides other insurance programs and also helps student-athletes with unmet financial needs through the Student Assistance Fund.

Health and safety benefits include both championships and year-round drug-testing programs. Among other things, the NCAA also supports an extensive research program on sports injuries.



Walter Byers Scholarships

Two one-year, renewable $24,000 postgraduate scholarships named in honor of the NCAA’s original executive director.

Jim McKay Scholarships

Two one-year $10,000 postgraduate scholarships named in honor of the legendary sports broadcaster.

Twenty-six $6,000 postgraduate scholarships – 13 for women and 13 for ethnic minorities – who are enrolling in a curriculum that will assist the applicant in obtaining a career in sports administration. Six of the scholarships are available to Division III students only.

A variable number of grants to assist Division I student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility for institutional financial aid. Student-athletes selected for the award receive an amount equivalent to tuition and fees and also a book allowance based on the number of hours they are taking.

A variable number of grants to assist Division II student-athletes who have received athletically related financial aid and who have completed their eligibility. Grants cover tuition only and are based primarily on the financial aid the student-athlete received during his or her final year of eligibility.

A total of 174 one-time, $7,500 postgraduate scholarships (87 men, 87 women), divided equally among NCAA fall, winter and spring sports.

In 2011-12, each Division I institution received about $68,000 from the Academic Enhancement Fund. The fund is intended to help institutions purchase educational equipment and services.

On-the-job learning experiences at the NCAA national office for college graduates who have expressed an interest in a career in college athletics administration.



An insurance program that covers student-athletes who are catastrophically injured while participating in a covered intercollegiate athletics activity. The policy has a $90,000 deductible and provides insurance in excess of any other valid and collectible insurance.

A program that covers intercollegiate sports-related injuries and institution below the catastrophic insurance deductible of $90,000 per injury. The program is intended to provide member institution the tools and resources necessary to control costs and reduce expenses related to athletics injuries, including a reasonable insurance solution, risk-management strategies, cost-containment solutions and administrative service.

A disability insurance program for exceptional student-athletes in the sports of football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and men’s ice hockey. The program enables qualifying student-athletes to purchase disability insurance contracts with preapproved financing, if necessary. The program provides student-athletes with the opportunity to protect against future loss of earnings as a professional due to a disabling injury or illness that may occur during their college careers.

A combination of the Student-Athlete Opportunity and Special Assistance Funds. The purpose is to assist student-athletes with special financial needs. Most of this money is used for educational purposes, with some also going for needs such as clothing.

The Division I Board of Directors is committed to increasing the value of a full scholarship through the provision of a miscellaneous expense allowance intended to cover unmet educational costs.

The presidents are collecting feedback from the membership about how to best implement such a plan.

  • Allow each school to give student-athletes up to $2,000 of additional aid (not to exceed cost of attendance). In this model, financial need is not part of the criteria and student-athletes could receive the additional funding whether they were on full scholarship or received some portion of a scholarship. Alternately, those receiving partial scholarships could be limited to receiving a proportional amount of the $2,000 (for example, if they receive a 25 percent scholarship, they could receive $500 of the additional funding).
  • Base the eligibility for the miscellaneous expense allowance on a student-athlete’s demonstrated “need” as detailed through the Free Application for Student Financial Assistance (FAFSA). To be eligible for the funding, student-athletes must fill out the FAFSA.
  • Allow each school to use Student-Athlete Opportunity Funds, up to $2,000 per student-athlete, up to the cost of attendance. Each school would be allowed to supplement their SAOF funds by up to $2,000 for each of the total number of grants-in-aid.

The Student-Athlete Well-Being Working Group, which originated the concept of the miscellaneous expense allowance, will make a final recommendation to the Board in advance of the August meeting.

Health and Safety


A program to collect accurate and reliable data on injury incidence in NCAA championship sports. Injury Surveillance Program data are analyzed, interpreted and disseminated to assist evidenced-based decision-making in building safer competitive environments.

The Divisions I and II year-round programs test about 11,000 randomly selected student-athletes annually for anabolic agents, anti-estrogens, peptide hormones and analogues, diuretics, and other masking agents. The purpose is to protect student-athletes and to ensure equitable competition.

The championships program tests about 2,500 student-athletes at championships in all three divisions. This program tests for the same banned substances as the year-round program and also for stimulants and certain street drugs. The purpose is to protect student-athletes and to ensure equitable competition.

Cheerleading Safety Initiative

A risk-management initiative conducted in partnership with Varsity Brands to enhance safety for college cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are covered under the NCAA’s Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program.

Up to $2,000 is awarded to NCAA member institutions and conference offices to fund student-athlete development, and health and safety related programming.

Two conferences conducted by the University of Virginia’s Center for Alcohol and Substance Education to analyze and improve the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse.

Funding for NCAA member institutions of up to $30,000 for three years for campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse.

Several resources help student-athletes, coaches and administrators make proper choices for healthy lifestyles. These include the Sports Medicine Handbook; the Drug-Testing Program; the Hazing Prevention Handbook; Managing Student-Athletes’ Mental Health Issues Handbook; Life and Work Balance Handbook, Facilitator Video and Online Resource; Coaches Handbook: Managing the Female Athlete Triad; Safety in Student Transportation: A Resource Guide for Colleges and Universities; Pregnant and Parenting Student-Athletes: Resources and Model Policies; a nutrition and performance website; and a skin-infection and MRSA prevention-poster series.

Other Programs


CHAMPS/Life Skills

A program that supports student-athlete development initiatives at member institutions.

An organization of college, high school and professional organizations to promote the values of citizenship through sportsmanship and ethical play in athletics.

Programs conducted in concert with other athletics associations to enhance the philosophical, physical, psychological, social and ethical development of coaches at all levels of sports so athletes can achieve their full potential.

Student-Athlete Development Grants

Grants valued at $1,250 each awarded to 60 institutions to student-athlete development programming, such as decision-making/problem-solving, peer-mentoring or career preparation or development.

NCAA Youth Clinics

A community-outreach program that connects underserved populations with selected NCAA championships.