According to Wikipedia:

Athletic scholarships are common in the United States, but in many countries they are rare or non-existent.

But are there areas (e.g., countries or cities) where there are some universities that offer sports scholarships while other universities in the same area don't? If so, why would any athlete attend a university without a sports scholarship when there are nearby universities that do offer such scholarships?

I have this relative (sibling) who recently got accepted into a first world university for an undergraduate degree in engineering and was accepted as a sports scholar...sort of. But none of their tuition is waived. The only thing my relative gets is that their fee to be on the team (!) is reduced. They also get lower grade requirements in admissions or retention, but they do not need this.

I found out that several universities in this area apparently do offer substantial sports scholarships ranging from 50-100% off tuition. Some of these other universities are actually ranked lower than my relative's university. So: I do not understand, why would anyone play sports for a university but not get paid or get tuition waived?

Some guesses:

  1. Lower admission grade requirement
  2. Lower retention grade requirement
  3. Admission or retention for dormitory requirement
  4. Possibility of future scholarships
  5. Prospects of a sports-related careers after graduation

But none of these really explain why athletes without scholarships wouldn't just transfer to schools where they could get a scholarship.

Update: My relative did get a dormitory scholarship at the beginning of their second year.

  • I think you also imply that every university has a sports team with the goal of making it the best team possible. Many just have teams so that their students can play - if that's your philosophy your economic argument makes little sense.
    – xLeitix
    Aug 29, 2018 at 19:02
  • RE fun: I think that's what clubs are for. Sure, have a volleyball club. Same as having a maths club. But to represent universities interschool as a varsity player, I think that's significantly different. Is it not? I don't mean to say that the difference implies that varsity players are (which is not the case) or should be (there are arguments for and against) paid, but simply that there is some significance.
    – BCLC
    Aug 29, 2018 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


In the United States, many (perhaps even most) institutions do not give sports scholarships.

For example, I went to MIT, which gives only need-based funding (0% sports scholarships), but has a quite high NCAA varsity participation rate because, well, sports originally exist because people enjoy playing them, especially in the company of others. That's certainly why I was a student athlete (even captain of my team).

What institutions without sports scholarships tend to lack is not athletes but audiences. At MIT, for example, the varsity football games were infamously said to be better attended by the band (who loved chances to play) than by anybody else, though I can't verify this because I never bothered to go myself.

By contrast, the institutions that do give sports scholarships tend to have big crowds and be the high-visibility teams that you see on TV, thus exaggerating their apparent frequency.

Given the wide mix of public and private institutions with varying philosophies and missions, I expect you'd likely find this contrast in every major US city.

  • 2
    Like Philly, Boston has the same mix. MIT is NCAA Division 3, Harvard is Division 1 but Ivy League, Boston College and Boston University are Division 1 with scholarships, and the myriad of other colleges/universities are various other mixes of situations...
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 29, 2018 at 16:04

This Community Wiki answer was created from answers-in-the-comments.

Are there areas where only some universities fund their sports scholars?

Take the Philadelphia area. The University of Pennsylvania, an NCAA Division 1 Ivy League school, does not offer athletic scholarships since it is against Ivy League policy. Temple University does offer athletic scholarships, as do Drexel, Villanova, and other Division 1 schools. Bryn Mawr college, a Division 3 school, does not per Division 3 rules. So, basically anywhere in the US with multiple college/universities likely has a mix of scholarship and non-scholarship situations.


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