The advantages of competing in college sports are both immediate and lifelong. This list outlines the many benefits student-athletes receive by playing their chosen sport while pursuing a college degree.
1. College Education
A college degree has a direct impact on a person’s quality of life. A 2013 study by The College Board shows that the median lifetime earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients are 65 percent higher than those of high school graduates. Access to a college education is a great benefit to student-athletes as well. NCAA research shows nearly 20 percent of student-athletes across the association are first-generation college students.
2. Academic Success
The NCAA's most recent data indicate that more than eight out of 10 (82 percent) Division I student-athletes are earning their degrees. Overall, college student-athletes graduate at rates higher than college students in general. As part of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, more than 11,500 student-athletes have returned to campus and completed their degrees since 2005.
More than 150,000 student-athletes receive $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships each year from NCAA member colleges and universities.
The average college student graduates with $35,200 in debt. Athletic scholarships offset these costs for student-athletes. In addition, USA Today determined that a full men’s basketball scholarship can be worth at least $120,000 per year, when factoring in goods, services and future earnings.
Athletes who do not receive athletic scholarships have a variety of other financial aid available to them, including academic scholarships and federal Pell Grants. Student-athletes’ earnings from part-time employment also are exempt from financial aid limits. Moreover, in the last decade NCAA schools have awarded more than $17 billion in athletics scholarships.
4. Student Assistance Fund
Division I student-athletes have access through their campus and conference offices to more than $73 million from the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund. These resources can be used in a variety of ways, from helping student-athletes fly home in the event of a family tragedy to purchasing a winter coat or other needed clothing that they might not be able to afford.
5. Academic and Support Services
Student-athletes receive academic support, such as state-of-the-art technology and tutoring, and have access to athlete-focused academic advisors in addition to traditional academic advisors. The NCAA also provides resources each year to schools as part of the Academic Enhancement Fund.
6. Medical Care
The NCAA takes appropriate steps to modify safety guidelines, playing rules and standards. For example, the NCAA and U.S. Department of Defense have embarked on a landmark $30 million initiative to enhance the safety of student-athletes and service members. The initiative includes the most comprehensive study of concussion and head impact exposure ever conducted.
The NCAA funds an insurance policy covering all student-athletes who experience catastrophic injuries while playing or practicing their sports – providing up to $20 million in lifetime insurance benefits for medical expenses and other special needs. Furthermore, student-athletes can obtain their own disability insurance based on future earnings potential as professional athletes, which is permitted under NCAA rules.
7. Elite Training Opportunities
Student-athletes have regular access to top-notch coaching, facilities and equipment. These resources typically cost Olympic athletes thousands of dollars per year.
8. Healthy Living
Student-athletes have access to cafeteria “training tables” on campus. In addition, some schools hire nutritionists and dieticians to work with each individual student-athlete.
9. Exposure and Experiences
Student-athletes have the opportunity to travel across the country and around the world for competition, including regular-season, NCAA championships and foreign tours. Some student-athletes receive national and international exposure during competition. These experiences can open doors for the few who will compete professionally and for the majority who will go pro in something other than sports.
10. Preparation for Life
Increasingly, the business world is focusing on creating a team environment with employees, as evidenced by constant discussion of teamwork in publications like the Harvard Business Review. By competing in college sports, student-athletes learn important skills, like leadership, time management and how to effectively work with others toward a common goal. Companies have specifically said that they seek to hire former student-athletes, and the majority of student-athletes say that participating in college sports prepares them for life after graduation.