How to Get Recruited Guide

College Athletics and Student Loans

Will your college athlete graduate with college debt? Over half of all college students take out student loans to fund their education. According to, borrowers graduate with an average college debt of over $39,000. It’s statistically likely your child will graduate with college debt.

Has your family been dreaming of a college athletic scholarship to help pay for the cost of your child’s education? If you’ve read What are the Odds of Getting an Athletic Scholarship, you know that few athletes receive a full-ride athletic scholarship. In pursuit of a scholarship and a prized roster spot, are there issues you and your athlete are ignoring? Are you ignoring the true cost of college and the reality of college debt?

Imagine your child’s life after college graduation


Begin by looking forward. Imagine your child’s situation after college graduation. The purpose is to help your family have the real conversation, “How much are a college education and playing college athletics worth? How much college debt are we willing to incur?”

Here are three questions you should consider as a family before agreeing to compete for a coach and putting down your tuition deposit:

  • How much is a college education worth?
  • How much is it worth to spend four more years playing the sport you love?
  • How much is it worth to choose the school where the coach wants you, compared to the school you can afford?

First, we are going to dive in with some facts. Don’t breeze over them. Look into your child’s future, as you see them beginning their career and family.

Is your child facing a depressing financial future?


Price Waterhouse Coopers and George Washington University did an in-depth study on young adults, 23 to 35 years in age, and created the Millennials & Financial Literacy Report. Here are some of their findings:

  • 81% of college-educated millennials carry at least one long-term debt.
  • 54% are worried about their ability to repay their student loans.
  • 34% are unsatisfied with their current financial situation.
  • 50% could not come up with $2000 for an unexpected expense.

Let those figures soak in. Instead of beginning their careers with hope and optimism, millennials instead face depressing financial insecurity. How do young men and women graduating from college end up struggling to survive financially?

If you can limit the amount of debt your child takes on during college, you give them a better chance at a hopeful future.


The first glimpse of college debt is in the financial aid package


When your child is a senior in high school the financial aid packages begin arriving and the excitement is at a fever pitch. Your child is excited because they’ve been recruited by a coach, offered a roster spot and scholarship, and been accepted into the university. Yes!

However, with each financial aid package, a sleight of hand takes place. It does not matter if the schools you are looking at cost $10,000 or $45,000 a year. When you receive the financial aid packages, there is a long list of figures which will tell you definitively, “You can afford our school!” Yes!

The colleges send a slick package that looks something like this.

  • Achievement scholarship     $6,000         
  • University grant                      $2,000
  • Federal Pell Grant                   $5,500
  • Federal SEOG Grant               $2,000         
  • State Grant                               $2,000
  • Athletic Scholarship               $4,000
    • Total Gift Aid               $21,500
  • Stafford Subsidized Loan      $3,500
  • Stafford Unsubsidized Loan  $2,000
  • Parent Plus Loan                     $16,000
  • Federal College Work Study  $2,000
    • (this is a minimum wage job and one you are not guaranteed.)
    • Total Self-Help Aid     $23,500


  • Cost of tuition, room and board: $45,000
  • Total aid: $45,000
  • You owe nothing more!

Wow! Do you see that $4000 athletic scholarship? Do you see the total amount of scholarships and grants? $21,500. Incredible.

But did you see how many loans the federal government offered your child? $21,500. For one year. Multiply that by four years and your child will owe $86,000 when they graduate.

These numbers vary depending upon the college’s sticker price and what they believe your family can contribute. I just gave your son/daughter a financial aid package of $45,000. The award letter is clear, you can afford that education. And what’s better, it won’t cost a penny from your pocket. How can you refuse FREE education?

Easy money during college becomes crushing debt afterward. 

Not every student graduates.


Even more sobering, the statistics say that the graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students is only 62% in six years. I know you’re thinking, “Not my child.” But statistics don’t lie, a third of you have children who will not graduate within six years.

Imagine being in the 38% who have no college diploma, yet do have student debt.

Help your child avoid being one of those statistics by talking through questions like these:

  • Is college the right choice for you?
  • Is college the right choice for you right now?
  • Should you attend a Junior College first?

Most students take out student loans to help pay for college and often they’re necessary. However, taking on crushing student loans for a couple of years of athletic competition, and no degree, may not be the best option. I believe it is our job as parents to protect and advise our 18-year-olds. Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations, infusing realism into what can feel like a dream world when your athlete is chased by college coaches for their teams.

Figure out if your child can afford student loans


Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t afford private schools or state schools for that matter. It does mean, doing your research and understanding what exactly is being offered and how much you will actually have to pay now and repay later.

Here are three helpful questions as your child considers taking on student loans:

  1. What is the average starting salary for your intended career?
  2. Add up how much money you will owe in student loans if you go to this school?
  3. What would the monthly payment be when you graduate? For how long? (Google “Student Loan Calculator”)
  4. Can you afford the cost of living and student loan payments on your projected salary?

An average of fifteen percent of student loans are in default at any given time. You can help your child avoid those serious financial consequences by making smart decisions before you borrow the money.

Are your kids under the impression they can have whatever they want and whenever they want it? Part of growing up is realizing that life requires us to make hard choices. We can rarely have everything. Bring up the uncomfortable conversations now to make sure they are not crushed by a load of student debt without first examining the ramifications of their choices.

If you’re looking for more tips to avoid student loans try reading How to Pay for College Without Student Loans by Anthony Oneal.