New Study Finds NCAA 'Full' Scholarships Leave Student-Athletes Running On Empty

ITHACA, NY — At a time when the NCAA’s coffers have never been fuller — the ink on its new $11 billion contract with CBS is barely dry — the Division I student-athletes who generate that revenue still have to pay significant out-of-pocket expenses to cover the cost of their educations despite receiving “full” scholarships. According to a new joint study by the Ithaca College Graduate Program in Sport Management and Media and the National College Players Association (NCPA), the shortfall between the monetary value of a grant-in-aid scholarship and the actual cost of attending college at 336 NCAA Division I colleges and universities averages $2,951 a year.

The data used to calculate the shortfall numbers was taken from information published by the schools as well as information made available by the U.S. Department of Education. Because the NCAA formula for scholarships results in different expenses from one institution to the next, the annual shortfalls discovered in the study range from $200 (at the University of South Carolina Upstate) to $10,962 (at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock).

“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,” said Ellen J. Staurowsky, the professor and graduate chair at Ithaca College who partnered with NCPA in the study. “While NCAA rules governing compensation for athletes have 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.”

Representatives from the NCPA, an organization started by UCLA football players to serve as an advocacy group for college athletes, assert that NCAA colleges and 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” scholarships.

“The NCAA and its schools have been pretending to fully support student-athletes’ pursuit for a college degree,” said NCPA president Ramogi Huma. “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 players are not only generating record revenues for the NCAA, the BCS Conferences and their schools, but also at a period of heated debate about athletes accepting money and gifts from agents. Earlier this month, former NBA star and television sports analyst Charles Barkley admitted accepting “walking around” money from sports agents while playing college basketball. Former sports agent Josh Luchs recently admitted to paying numerous college athletes in an article published in “Sports Illustrated.”

“The NCAA and its schools set many players up to fail,” Huma said. “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?”
After the University of Arkansas, the study identified the largest shortfalls occurring at Southern Illinois University ($8,019), Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis ($6,720), University of Cincinnati ($5,970) and University of Missouri ($5,930). The scholarship shortfalls for all 336 Division I schools is available at

An authority on gender equity, Title IX and equal opportunity issues that apply to college sport, Ellen Staurowsky is also an expert on the exploitation of athletes, representation of women in sport media and the misappropriation of American Indian imagery in sport. She has written numerous articles on these topics for publications such as “Marquette Sports Law Review,” “Chronicle of Higher Education” and “Street & Smith’s SportBusiness Journal.”

She can be reached for interviews at (607) 274-1730 or