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NAIA Athletic Scholarships

NAIA Athletic Scholarships

Is your teen counting on a full-ride NAIA athletic scholarship? In the articles on  Division I Athletic Scholarships and Division II Athletic Scholarships, you read that full-ride scholarships are rare for most sports. 

This article is the third in a four-part series on the amount of scholarships actually available on college rosters. And the focus here is on NAIA athletic scholarships. (Need to know more about the NAIA? Check out the post What is the NAIA?)

There is no better place to get answers than from the coaches handing out those coveted scholarships. So you’ll hear directly from coaches in this article.


How are NAIA Athletic Scholarships divided?


But first, you need to understand that the NAIA caps how much athletic scholarship money each sport is allowed to give out. If you’re aware of the available athletic scholarships, you’ll have realistic expectations once coaches start making offers to your teen.

Each coach has a certain dollar amount that can be split among multiple athletes in any proportion they choose. To illustrate, baseball is allowed the amount of 12 full scholarships. The coach multiplies the college tuition by 12. The total dollar amount is what the coach has to work with for the entire team. If the baseball team has 24 players on scholarship (typical), the average scholarship would be half of the total cost. Pretend the cost of attendance is $40,000 per year. If one player receives $30,000 another would have to receive $10,000 to balance it out. Baseball rosters will typically add another 5-10 players on the roster who receive no athletic scholarship.

See the chart below for the number of scholarships allowed by each sport. The baseball analogy above is an example of how to understand the chart.

NAIA Allowed Scholarship Numbers
Baseball 12
Basketball (Division 1) 8
Competitive Cheer 12
Cross Country 5
Football 24
Golf 6
Soccer 12
Softball 10
Swimming & Diving 8
Tennis 5
Track & Field 12
Wrestling 10
Volleyball 8


NAIA colleges decide independently how to distribute money and how much to give

There are not many full-ride NAIA athletic scholarships, but there are a number of partial scholarships available. Like the NCAA, the NAIA places a cap on the amount of scholarship money that can be given. That’s the upper limit.

Then each college decides if they want to give out the full amount of scholarship money allowed by the NAIA or only partially fund it. Many schools give away less than the permitted amount. Coach Saenz attempted to clarify how different NAIA colleges are from each other in how they work.

Scholarships range depending on the college. Certain colleges have a maximum amount they can give, while others have the funds to give a wide range of scholarships. Some are based off of an average system so at the end of the day when the roster is complete the average scholarship per player should be near the goal set by the budget. The way our college works is that our scholarships vary depending on the needs of the team, the position of the player, and also what the player can bring to the team as a whole. It is up to the coach’s discretion to make a scholarship offer to our Athletic Director, if approved the scholarship will be awarded.”

Coach Carlos Saenz, Men’s Soccer of Mount Marty College

Next, Coach Zartman shows how different each NAIA school can be in how they award money. Most of the money at his college is academic and need-based. Only 30% of their roster has an “athletic scholarship.”

“We work under a scholarship system that primarily relies on academic and need base aids. Roughly 98% of our roster falls under one or both of these categories. Roughly 30% of our roster receives an extra Athletic Appeal Scholarship on top of the academic and or need base monies.”

Coach Seth Zartman, Baseball of Bethel College (Indiana)


Don’t let an athletic scholarship become a vanity metric.


Your teen might be awarded an athletic scholarship. Or an academic scholarship. Or need-based aid. No matter what you call it, it’s money.

So it doesn’t matter what the college calls your teen’s scholarships and aid. In one case your teen might receive a $10,000 athletic scholarship and a $0 need-based package. But when it’s time to pay the bills, it’s the same as receiving a $10,000 need-based package and a $0 athletic scholarship.

The only difference is your pride. Your vanity might love to see your teen win a hefty athletic scholarship. But I’d encourage you to think more about how much you’ll pay out of pocket to the university.


There is money in being a good “Student-Athlete.”


I say this whenever I talk about scholarships because you need to know it. There is far more money available as academic aid than as athletic aid. Train your teen right now to be a student-athlete. Not just an athlete.

“Building a roster from the ground up, has meant that I have spread athletic scholarship dollars across a range of players. I work very closely with our enrollment office along the way. Student athletes who invest as heavily in the classroom as they do on the field, will tend to garner more institutional aid along the way.

Coach Bruce Deaton, Women’s Soccer of Evangel University

“As an NAIA division II school we have a budgetary cap but each individual institution may also have their own cap. As a coach, we have to manage the resources that our school gives us to build a competitive roster. We do not have unlimited resources. If a student athlete has an academic scholarship it makes it a lot easier for us to give them a more aggressive financial aid package. If they also get any need based aid like Pell grant, then we can really come up with a very competitive offer.”

Coach Jamey Batten, Women’s Basketball of Ohio Christian University

  • Tip to get a good athletic scholarship: Be talented and communicate well with coaches.
  • Tip to get a good financial package: Be smart or a diligent student.
  • Tip to a great financial package: Be talented, smart, and poor!

What do NAIA athletic scholarships look like on college rosters?


As we talked about earlier, coaches have a limited amount of money to give out. The following coaches will give you a glimpse into who gets the money and the amounts typical athletes receive.

Who gets the most money? Players in impact positions such as pitcher, catcher, goalkeeper, quarterback, etc.

Are they getting full rides including room and board? Most of the time: NO.

“With limited scholarships, money is spread out. Some students that we consider impact players in an impact position tend to receive more. No one here is getting a full ride.

Coach Adrian Dinkel, Baseball of Southeastern University

For most programs pitchers, catchers, shortstops, and center fielders receive the highest scholarships.  Then add the players who have an outstanding skill. Power hitters or potential elite conference players at any position would probably see a higher scholarship.”

Coach Steve Babinski, Softball of Indiana Wesleyan University

“We hope to bring in 20 women and 20 men each year in our recruiting. Our recruits averaged just under $3500 in athletic aid last season.

Coach Scott Bahrke, Track & Field of Northwestern College

If a school costs $35,000 – $45,000 (the cost of most private schools) to attend, is the athletic scholarship going to take care of your teen? From interviews with state school coaches where the costs are closer to $10,000-$20,000, the athletic scholarship average still ranges at about 10-20% ($1500-$2000). There is still much more tuition, room, and board to pay than the athletic scholarship will cover.

Can you stack NAIA scholarships?


One more term you need to know is scholarship “stacking.”  When looking at individual schools it makes a huge difference in how they will handle your teen’s financial aid package (scholarships, grants, and aid). Stacking is when a college allows the coach to give whatever amount of athletic scholarship they want. Then the admissions department adds or stacks the academic, need-based money, and other grants/aid on top of the athletic money. Some colleges stack scholarships and others don’t.

“Check with the school if they allow stacking of scholarships. My highest package athletes have a combination of athletic and academic aid because they were just as serious in the classroom as they were with their softball training.

Coach Steve Babinski, Softball of Indiana Wesleyan University

In the article, Division II Athletic Scholarships, I quoted two other coaches who use stacking to their advantage. So scholarship stacking is common and often works in your favor.

However, there are a lot of schools that don’t stack scholarships. This doesn’t mean that a school that doesn’t stack hands out less total aid. Often, it’s just different in how they label the money they hand out. But this could have a big effect on your teen as an individual and the only way to know is to wait for the Award Letter.

Following is an example of a school that does not stack.

“All of our players are on some sort of scholarship. We cannot stack academic or athletic here at Carey, so the students are on an athletic or academic, usually whichever is higher. We cannot give athletic full scholarships, so most everyone is paying something to attend Carey. Now, we have a few students who have qualified for full academic scholarships based on their ACT score (29 or higher), so those players are probably on the largest amount of scholarship given by the school, not soccer program.”

Coach Danny Owens, Women’s Soccer of William Carey University

Two big takeaways about NAIA Scholarships


 First, academic money is more important than athletic scholarships. Your teen must focus on being a good student and studying hard all the way through high school. First, they need to meet eligibility requirements. And second, a good GPA equals a good scholarship.

Second, every school handles financial packages differently and this can have a huge impact on your wallet. Whether schools stack or not and how they award money for academic, athletic, and need-based aid will determine what kind of total financial package your teen receives. Work through the whole financial aid package at multiple colleges and compare the numbers. There’s no “best” system.

Are you looking to learn more about scholarships read Little Known Secrets About Athletic Scholarships.

How to Get Recruited

Also, take a look at the How to Get Recruited Guide. Inside you’ll find a step-by-step plan to help your teen become a college athlete. There are simple, free actions your teen can take today to become a high-value recruit. And high-value recruits get offered higher scholarships. Buy it today and get all the recruiting knowledge you need, and the confidence to know you’re doing it right.


P.S. Come join The Recruiting Code Facebook Group. Parents and coaches are in there talking all about college recruiting. Come learn from each other, share stories, and get information that will help your child become a college athlete.