Full-ride scholarships not so full

football player

Back in August, in a college finance story I mentioned the case of Rickey Batsell, a north Minneapolis student who is on a “full athletic scholarship” to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff — but who still has a number of living expenses that aren’t covered.

Looks like he’s not alone.

Just for Division I, for example, the Associated Press reports:

… The average “full scholarship” Division I athlete winds up having to pay $2,951 annually in school-related expenses not covered by grants-in-aid.

The story brings an interesting twist to the argument that college athletics help bring in money for scholarships.

Here’s the story:


Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – A new study suggests that the so-called

“free ride” for college scholarship athletes isn’t quite so free.

The report by Ithaca College researchers and a national

athletes’ advocacy group shows that the average “full

scholarship” Division I athlete winds up having to pay $2,951

annually in school-related expenses not covered by grants-in-aid.

The shortfall represents the difference between educational

expenses such as tuition, student fees, room and board and

ancillary costs not covered by scholarships, from campus parking

fees to calculators and computer disks required for classes.

At some schools, the shortfall can approach or exceed tuition

costs. At Arkansas-Little Rock, for instance, the 2009 shortfall is

nearly $11,000, said Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker who now

heads the National College Players Association.

“It’s really deceptive to use the words ‘full scholarship,”‘

he said. “There’s never an explanation for recruited athletes that

the price tag for attending school falls short of the scholarship


The Little Rock school disputed that calcuation, suggesting its

gap between athletic scholarships and the actual cost of attendance

is closer to $4,100 a year.

College athletes whose academic expenses aren’t fully covered by

scholarships are more susceptible to the influence of

money-wielding sports agents, Huma suggested. In a recent Sports

Illustrated report, a former agent said he paid more than 30

college football players from 1990-96. Seven of the athletes

confirmed that account.

“The amounts of money he talked about giving these players

falls within the scholarship shortfalls,” Huma said. “These

players are putting everything on the line to get a few bucks in

order to make ends meet … and to meet their basic necessities.”

“If they were to fully fund scholarships, there would be less


A law passed in California earlier this month requires the

state’s colleges and universities to disclose more complete

information about the actual costs of attendance, as well as

details about uncovered medical expenses and policies on

scholarship renewal and transferring to other schools.

The scholarship study by Huma’s group and Ithaca College’s

Graduate Program in Sport Management is based on data submitted by

individual schools to the U.S. Department of Education.

An NCAA spokesman called the current scholarship formula

“appropriate for most student-athletes” and noted that some can

obtain federal Pell Grants and other need-based aid in addition to

athletic-related assistance.

The association’s Division I Awards, Benefits, Expenses and

Financial Aid Cabinet considered changes to the scholarship formula

last year “allowing athletics aid up to the cost of attendance,”

but the proposal was not endorsed for further consideration, said

NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson.

Another NCAA committee recently endorsed eight separate

proposals allowing athletes to accept more financial aid – both

merit- and need-based – without affecting team limits on such aid.

At Missouri-Kansas City, which ranks fifth-highest in the new

study with average out-of-pocket expenses of $5,030 annually,

athletic director Tim Hall said the school is up front with

recruits about their financial responsibilities beyond the

scholarship amount.

“UMKC coaches and staff are careful to communicate to our

potential student-athletes exactly what financial aid package will

be provided to them,” he said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)