Study Shows "Full" Scholarships Leaves Athletes With Almost $15,000 In Expenses

NCPA President Ramogi Huma stated, "The NCAA and its schools have been pretending to fully support student-athletes' pursuit for a college degree. They have misled high school recruits, their parents, college athletes, lawmakers, and the general public.

October 26, 2010


For Immediate Release: October 26, 2010

NCPA Says Shortfalls Leave Players Ripe for Illegal Payments Plaguing College Sports

Riverside, CA— The ink on the NCAA’s new $11 billion TV contract with CBS has barely dried, BCS Conferences are anticipating record revenues from their new ESPN contract, and conferences are continuing to raid one another in search of higher revenue, but a new study shows that the “full” scholarship athletes that generate all of this money are unknowingly left to pay tens of thousands of dollars in education-related expenses.

NCAA rules prevent all of its member institutions from providing athletic scholarships that fully cover the price tag of the school better known as the cost of attendance.  That leaves players on “full” scholarship with significant out-of-pocket expenses for education-related expenses such as various academic supplies and fees.

A joint study conducted by the National College Players Association (NCPA) and the Ithaca College Graduate Program in Sport Management revealed that, in 2009, student-athletes in Division I receiving a so-called “full scholarship” were left with an average shortfall of $2951/year, or $14,755 over five years.  The NCAA formula for scholarships leaves very different shortfalls from one college to the next.  The range in scholarship shortfalls is $200/year - $10,962/year.  A full scholarship athlete at the University of Arkansas (Little Rock) would be expected to pay almost $55,000 over five years.

The NCPA asserts that, universities have been deceiving recruits, many of whom are minors and from disadvantaged backgrounds, into unknowingly being responsible for paying thousands of dollars while on “full” athletic scholarship.

NCPA President Ramogi Huma stated, “The NCAA and its schools have been pretending to fully support student-athletes’ pursuit for a college degree.  They have misled high school recruits, their parents, college athletes, lawmakers, and the general public.  The NCPA is calling upon the NCAA and these schools to use a portion of post-season football and basketball revenues to finally make good on a promise that they have been breaking for decades.  A full scholarship should cover the full cost of attendance.”

The study is being released at a time when, not only are players generating record revenues for the NCAA, the BCS Conferences, and their schools, but there is also a heated debate about athletes accepting money and gifts from agents.  In October of 2010, former NBA star and television sports analyst Charles Barkley admitted accepting “walking around” money from sports agents while playing college basketball.  In addition, former sports agent Josh Luchs recently admitted to paying numerous college athletes in an article published in Sports Illustrated.

Huma stated, “The NCAA and its schools set many players up to fail.  They tell players that their scholarships are “full”, cap scholarships below what players need to survive, and then punish players who accept money.  These players are citing financial hardships as reasons for accepting this money.  Is it any surprise that the amounts that Luchs gave those players is within the scholarship shortfall range identified in our study? ”

Ellen J. Staurowsky, professor and graduate chair at Ithaca College notes, “At a systemic level, the notion that some college athletes would feel compelled to accept under the table payments in order to survive while the system of pay for coaches continues to escalate, even during an economic downturn, offers an important context to better understand what is at stake with the issue of the scholarship shortfall.  While NCAA rules governing compensation for athletes has been based on the same formula since the 1970s, coaches contracts in the major revenue-producing sports have changed dramatically.  When the bonuses that coaches make are greater than the entire scholarship shortfall for their teams, you know there is an enormous inequity that harms college players.”

The United Steelworkers have been a staunch NCPA supporter and weighed in on the scholarship shortfall issue.  The Steelworkers’ International President Leo Gerard stated, “The NCAA and its members have continued to rake in more and more revenue supposedly in the name of education.  Meanwhile, the young, hardworking student-athletes that generate the money go without basic necessities like food.  These guys at the NCAA make the crooked Wall Street execs look like rookies.”

In addition, the NCPA claims that the NCAA and BCS Conferences are abusing their tax-exempt status by not fulfilling the educational promises that justify their non-profit status.  In fact, none of the BCS revenues are earmarked to support student-athletes’ education.

Huma stated, “It’s already a stretch to use their educational mission as a reason to not pay taxes on revenue from completely unrelated activities i.e. television contracts and ticket sales.  But they haven’t even been honest about the educational benefits that they claim to provide student-athletes.  They should all be stripped of their tax exempt status unless they fulfill their promise to fully support student-athletes’ education.”

The NCPA is not only fighting to increase scholarships, it is on a mission to eliminate the deceptive recruiting practices that are rampant across the nation.  It made considerable progress toward this goal when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the NCPA-sponsored “Student-Athletes’ Right to Know Act” (Assembly Bill 2079), which requires all California schools to disclose their scholarship shortfalls and other important policies to high school recruits.  The NCPA has plans to enact this bill in other states.

As a service to high school recruits, their parents, and college athletes, the NCPA made the scholarship shortfalls results available on its web site.  The study compares/ranks scholarship shortfalls among Division I colleges, by teams within BCS conferences, and by BCS football coaches’ salaries.  Study results are available at

“Every college athlete, recruit and parent should look at the scholarship shortfall numbers of any school that is recruiting them.  Otherwise, they will find that their ‘full’ scholarship could leave them buried in unexpected expenses,” said Huma.

The NCPA also noted that the NCAA’s low cap on scholarships gives many schools a significant recruiting advantage because the players at certain schools pay less out-of-pocket expenses than players at other schools.

“The NCAA claims to prevent recruiting advantages, yet its cap on scholarships creates what is arguably the biggest recruiting advantage in college sports.  Now that this information is coming to light, many talented recruits will want to avoid schools that are going to leave them with the highest out-of-pocket expenditures.  If I was a coach or fan of a school with a large scholarship shortfall, I’d be very worried about the future of my athletic program.  These schools should work to help change these rules right away,” said Huma.

The United Steelworkers have helped support the NCPA since 2001.  The NCPA has established itself as the voice for college athletes, and has helped bring forth important reforms including:

  • Helped establish a $10 million fund to assist former athletes who wish to complete their undergraduate degree or attend a graduate program
  • Elimination of limits on health care for college athletes
  • Sponsored Student-Athletes’ Right to Know Act forcing schools to disclose important policies to recruits
  • Increase in the NCAA death benefit from $10,000 to $25,000
  • Expansion of the NCAA Catastrophic Injury Insurance Policy so that college athletes who suffer permanent, debilitating injuries can receive adequate home health care
  • Implementation of key safety guidelines to help prevent deaths during workouts  

Complete NCPA study results and additional studies are available on the NCPA web site:

Shortfall estimates are the sum of expenses that cannot be covered in a full grant in aid athletic scholarship per NCAA rules.  The data used to calculate shortfall numbers was taken from information published by the schools in the study as well as information made available by the US Department of Education.  The NCPA says actual shortfall numbers will vary according to each individual student.

Study Highlights

Nationally: 5 Most Expensive Scholarship Shortfalls

BCS Conferences: Highest & Lowest Scholarship Shortfalls