If a coveted “full ride” is the goal for your little soccer or football stars at home, then take note: Not all college sports scholarships are the same. In Florida, Orlando’s very own University of Central Florida athletic program appears to be the state champion
Gone are the days when a college sports program’s prestige and pathway to a potential pro career were the main factors in selecting where to take one’s talents. Rather, in an era when the cost of school attendance can vary by thousands of dollars, today’s amateur athletes also need to consider whether a given college’s financial aid will be enough to get them to graduation.
A Business Journals analysis of roughly 2,000 colleges found aid packages at many schools, particularly prominent private colleges, often fall well short of each campus’ estimated cost of attendance. The numbers also highlighted a material difference in what male athletes receive on average versus their female peers.
For example, at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the school’s 779 student athletes each averaged $24,904 in financial aid in 2017. While that ranked Duke among the 25 most generous schools in the nation when it came to the average dollar value of support for its athletes, the school’s average aid package was but a drop in the bucket when compared to its $75,000 estimated cost of attendance.
In Florida, the University of Central Florida seems to be a winning team to go to if students — both in-state and out-of-state — are looking for the best return on their student athlete aid. The school ranks at the top of the state’s major universities with more than 10,000 undergraduate students based on the scholarship-to-cost of attendance ratio.
Attending UCF for a single year can cost Florida-based students $17,578 and out-of-state students $33,688 for everything from tuition to room, board and books, among other costs. Scholarships for the Knights’ 491 athletes average $18,991, which could cover all the costs for in-state students or at least 56 percent of the cost for non-Florida students.
The best major universities for in-state students in Florida trailing UCF are:
- Florida International University (covering 90 percent of total annual costs)
- University of Florida (80 percent)
- Florida State University (70 percent)
- Florida Gulf Coast University (62 percent)
- University of Miami (55 percent)
- University of South Florida (41 percent)
- Florida Atlantic University (30 percent)
- Keiser University (25 percent)
The out-of-state breakdown shifts the ranks only a little behind UCF’s lead:
- University of Miami (55 percent total annual costs covered)
- Florida International University (50 percent)
- Florida State University (44 percent)
- University of Florida (39 percent)
- Florida Gulf Coast University (32 percent)
- University of South Florida (28 percent)
- Keiser University (25 percent)
- Florida Atlantic University (19 percent)
That spells good news for UCF’s athletic program, as it likely makes the school more enticing for athletes looking to go to a top-ranked school that’s affordable.
UCF’s sports also are continuing to gain national exposure thanks to success, including the men’s football program, which last year went undefeated with multiple conference titles and a self-claimed national title, and the women’s basketball team that won its conference multiple years, as well as a cheerleading team that has multiple national titles.
More than $9.32 million in student athlete aid was awarded at UCF in 2017. That further breaks down by gender with male athletes being awarded $5.03 million of the total and female athletes awarded $4.28 million. UCF ranks No. 4 in terms of total student aid awarded to athletes behind the University of Miami ($18.2 million), University of Florida ($11.2 million), and Florida State University ($10.2 million).
Another of Central Florida’s educational institutions with a highly-respected athletics program is Bethune-Cookman University, one of the region’s historically black universities, that charges an annual $30,076 cost of attendance. Each year, Bethune-Cookman clashes with Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) in Orlando’s Florida Classic football bowl game at Camping World Stadium.
The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats program awarded more than $4.5 million in student aid to 395 athletes in 2017 – breaking down to $3.38 million for male athletes and $1.12 million to female athletes.
Check the slideshow above for a deeper look at the breakdown among U.S. colleges nationwide.