How Colleges Can Screw Over Student Athlete Finances

If you’ve ever been to college, you know how tough it can be to make ends meet. Need a nice shirt for a dinner with your advisor? Better shell out the $40.00 and resort to eating ramen noodles until you get paid or can ask your parents for some cash.

And as a “regular” student, you might’ve harbored just a little resentment for the college athletes you saw around campus. With their scholarships and their celebrity status, some jealousy is understandable.

You may be surprised to hear, then, that many college athletes also struggle to cover their expenses. The NCAA has made several attempts to help student-athletes out with more financial assistance. Most recently, it was proposed to have colleges and universities give certain athletes an additional $2,000 per year.

As you can imagine, this was met with resistance by the colleges and universities who would have to foot the bill for this additional aid. Chances are this isn’t the last we’ve heard about additional financial assistance for student-athletes. Currently, college athletes can face a series of problems that create or add to their budget woes.

Here are a few of their problems:

1. Most athletic departments don’t allow student athletes to get jobs.

footballWhile most college students who are strapped for cash head to the dining hall, university library, on-campus gym or even off campus for part-time jobs, college athletes usually don’t have that luxury.

Their schedules just don’t allow for that kind of commitment. Former Auburn wide receiver Kodi Burns was quoted in an article on, “Being a student-athlete, you’re constantly on the run from 5 a.m. to 10 or 11 at night.” Long practices and other commitments eat at college athletes’ time. Often their remaining free time is spent studying to keep their grades up.

2. Additional scholarships – on top of athletic scholarships – must “count.”

According to, any additional scholarships athletes receive have to meet certain requirements. If an athlete receives any kind of athletic financial aid, he or she is considered a “counter.” This affects what, and how much, additional aid they can receive.

The website’s founder, Rick Allen, says, “In addition, if a student-athlete also receives an academic scholarship from their college or university due to their high school GPA or their ACT or SAT test score, the fact that they are already an NCAA ‘counter’ may affect the value or receipt of their academic scholarship.”

3. Some grants remain unavailable to student-athletes.

Like other students, college athletes have their “financial need” assessed by the university’s financial aid department to see just how much aid is required.

If a student-athlete’s need is considered low enough – even if, in reality, they require more assistance –(s)he may not qualify for some grants. Usually, student-athletes from low-income households receive more aid. And those from higher-earning households don’t need grant money, as their families can usually cover additional expenses.

The ones who have trouble, says former Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden via, are athletes from middle class homes. “Who’s hurt?” he says, “The middle class. Two parents, working families making $25,000 apiece, one kid has a scholarship and they have to make meet to get by.” He says that, if anyone deserves extra help, it’s those athletes.

So, what’s a student-athlete to do?

Fortunately, there may be some ways for college athletes to cut down their costs of living. Some of these might not be that pleasant but, hey, aren’t you supposed to struggle in college? Builds character or something.

1. Live on campus.

Yes, for some this may mean smelly hallways, group showers and maybe even no A/C. But, it beats scraping the barrel for a few extra pennies.

Most athletic scholarships, according to, “provide a student-athlete with tuition and fees, room, board and required course-related books.” So, if an athlete chooses to live on campus, his or her room and board will be completely free.

That off-campus housing may seem like the holy grail of living arrangements next to a cramped dorm room, but the high cost of rent in most college towns will severely chip away at an athlete’s monthly stipend.

2. Apply for as many non-athletic scholarships as possible.

Under the “counter” rule the NCAA imposes on its athletes, says, “[a]ny scholarships that a student-athlete will be receiving from groups such as Rotary or Kiwanis club, a church youth group, or a high school booster club should be sent to the financial aid office of the college…so that the scholarship can be processed properly.”

But that doesn’t mean student-athletes shouldn’t apply for every single scholarship he or she may qualify for. It’s tedious to write a ton of essays for scholarships and fill out those questionnaires, but funds are out there for any college student, including athletes.

3. Reduce general monthly expenses to the bare minimum.

If a student-athlete chooses to live off campus, rent and utilities are unavoidable expenses. However, there are still ways to cut back. Limiting clothes shopping and learning basic clothes repair – like sewing on a button – are crucial.

Organic produce and easy frozen dinners might seem best for the body and the clock, but those food items can wreak havoc on a wallet. If an athlete has a roommate, (s)he should consider going in together with the roomie on groceries, then splitting up the cooking duties. Learning to cook a few basic dishes and limiting dining-out is a great way to save.

It’s also a good idea to find a TV and Internet service that is friendly to tiny budgets but also won’t amount to more trouble than it’s worth. Internet access is essential for today’s college students/athletes and most services like Verizon FiOS or Time Warner, allow customers to bundle TV and Internet to save on their monthly bill.

This article was written by former collegiate athlete Chris Beck, who has had first-hand experience into what it is like living as a college athlete trying to make ends meet.

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