When student-athletes are unable to earn scholarships to four-year universities and private colleges, they often can find greater reception among community colleges. These two-year schools, most of which are public, state-supported institutions, offer intercollegiate athletics in multiple sports, and student-athletes who participate in these sports are often awarded athletic scholarships that help to pay for college. These scholarships also provide student-athletes with an opportunity to showcase their skills with the intention of earning an athletic scholarship to a four-year school upon completion of the two years of junior college sports. While community colleges offer sports scholarships, there are some differences from the scholarships awarded to athletes at four-year schools.
The National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) is the governing body for community college athletics, and the NJCAA sanctions 15 men’s and 12 women’s sports. Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, bowling, cross-country, golf, ice hockey, indoor track and field, lacrosse, outdoor track and field, half marathoning, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis and wrestling. Women’s sports do not include wrestling, baseball or ice hockey, but do include the other sports along with softball and volleyball. The NJCAA does not allow schools to award scholarships in all of these sports. Instead, the only scholarship sports for men are baseball, basketball, cross-country, golf, outdoor track and field, soccer and tennis. The only scholarship sports for women are basketball, cross country, softball, outdoor track and field, soccer, tennis and volleyball.
University athletic scholarships provide students with financial aid for four years, but community college scholarships are only two-year awards. Student-athletes must complete their certificates or associate’s degrees within the two years. If student-athletes do not complete their programs within the two years, they become ineligible for sports participation and for athletic scholarship help. Along with a shorter scholarship period, community college athletic scholarships are less likely to cover all expenses. The NJCAA allows Division I community colleges to offer full scholarships, but Division II schools are limited to providing scholarships for tuition, fees and books. NJCAA Division III schools cannot award any scholarships. Some community college sports scholarships provide aid that only covers partial tuition.
The level of competition for athletic scholarships at the junior college level is much lower than at the Division I level. This means that athletes stand a much greater chance of landing a scholarship. This is particularly true if students start their searches early and accept scholarships while other student-athletes are still trying to obtain Division I scholarships. One important factor in successfully landing a scholarship is self-promotion. Because community college sports programs do not have the paid staff and travel expense accounts that are common at large universities, they often depend on student-athletes who supply their own information to coaching staffs. To secure a scholarship at a community college, it often helps if student-athletes submit videotape or newspaper clippings of their performances. These materials can be sent along with formal scholarship applications, which can be obtained from a community college’s sports office.
Student-athletes at community colleges must maintain satisfactory classroom grades and attendance to qualify for scholarships. Students must be enrolled in at least 12 semester hours of coursework for each semester during which a scholarship is awarded, and students must progress with 12 credit hours earned at the end of each semester. Student-athletes also must have at least a 2.0 grade point average.