The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is a governing body of small colleges and universities that compete throughout the United States. Each year, more than 60,000 student athletes participate on a college sports team at an institution belonging to the NAIA, and member schools award more than $450 million in scholarship money. Just as with its larger National Collegiate Athletic Association counterpart, the NAIA has straightforward rules about granting scholarships to potential athletes.
In 2010, the NAIA opened its Eligibility Center to determine whether prospective athletes are academically and athletically eligible to play for a member school. The Eligibility Center requires that potential athletes send their official complete high school transcripts, test scores for either the SAT or ACT and class rank. Along with graduation from high school, students must also meet two out of the following three criteria: a minimum of 18 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT, a minimum overall high school grade-point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale and a ranking in the top half of their high school class.
Financial Aid Regulations
If you have been ruled eligible through the NAIA Eligibility Center Clearinghouse, the rules on financial aid are clear. Each member school determines how much aid is available for an individual student athlete. Nobody else may provide any kind of direct financial assistance to an athlete if he is receiving a scholarship. Scholarships through member schools are limited to tuition, mandatory fees, books and supplies, and room and board.
Credit Hour Rules
The NAIA requires that you abide by the 12-hour rule and the nine-hour rule in order to remain eligible. As a student athlete, you must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 semester hours to maintain eligibility. As a freshman, you must pass at least nine of those 12 hours in order to remain eligible during the second semester. Following your freshman year, you must continue on a track of progression in your academic program that satisfies the NAIA's Progress Rule of completing 24 semester hours per year. If you compete without being enrolled with enough credit hours or without passing the required number of credits, your institution could face NAIA sanctions.
Seasons of Play
The NAIA not only has eligibility rules in the classroom but also on the playing field. Student athletes are allowed to compete during four seasons running from August 1 through May 15. Competing in a sport for even one second or one play charges a student with a season of competition. Athletes' four seasons must occur during their first 10 semesters of attendance. In other words, you have five academic years to play four athletic seasons, but playing for just one second in any of those five years constitutes one season.
- NAIA.org: About the NAIA
- The NAIA Eligibility Center
- The NAIA Eligibility Center: Eligibility
- The NAIA Eligibility Center: Test Scores
- The NAIA Eligibility Center: Sending a Class Rank Letter
- NAIA.org: Financial Aid
- NAIA: 12-Hour Rule
- NAIA: Nine Hour Rule
- NAIA: Progress Rule
- NAIA: Seasons of Competition Rule
- Photo Credit XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images
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