The heat is on! Are you trying to figure out how to pay for the ever escalating cost of a college education for your child? For many parents, their savings plan is investing time and money into their child’s sport, with the hope and dream of obtaining the magical "full ride."
First, let’s attempt to dispel the "full ride" myth once and for all.
The ONLY sports that can cover 100% of tuition, room and board in the form of an athletic scholarship ("can" being the operative word, as 100% funding is optional) are the following:
- D1 Men: football (FBS) and basketball
- D1 Women: basketball, tennis, gymnastics and volleyball
And, even these scholarships don’t cover the full cost of a college education. Travel and other ancillary costs can add up. That is one reason the NCAA recently approved legislation which allows for athletes of these D1 sports to also receive an annual $2,000 cash stipend.
All other sports, on both the D1 and D2 level, provide "equivalency" scholarships that are divided up among several student-athletes. In these sports, an athlete is lucky to receive a scholarship covering 30% of the costs of tuition and room and board. Plus, these scholarships are only guaranteed for the first year. Oh, and did I fail to mention that only about 3% of high school student-athletes receive any type of athletic scholarship?
Many families spend inordinate amounts of money on their children’s athletic endeavors. In many cases, this investment is justified by parents who hope it pays off in the form of an athletic scholarship. This plan makes the odds of winning in Las Vegas look very appealing.
Let’s look at some simple math to explain.
Research shows that nowadays it is not uncommon for a family to spend upwards of $10,000 annually on sports fees, equipment, airfare, gas, hotel, rental car and food. Trickling down to younger and younger athletes each year, this practice now often begins with children as young as 8 or 9 years old.
Ten years of these expenditures equals $100,000 of potential lost college savings, which instead sits in the coffers of various equipment manufacturers, hotels, restaurants, airlines and team and event organizers.
That is $100,000 which could have been invested in a 529 plan.
What is a 529 plan?
A 529 plan is an investment plan which allows families to save money to offset the costs of a college education. Every state offers at least one such plan. There are tax benefits and the opportunity to grow your money significantly over time. So, the $100,000 invested over a 10 year span could easily grow to twice that amount.
How would you like to have $200,000 saved when your child is ready for college?
I’m not stating unequivocally that athletes shouldn’t participate with these teams. They do have benefits, and there are times when college coaches do take notice of an athlete that was previously unknown or lesser known. However, I encourage families to make that decision for the right reasons, not due to a mindset of "we have to in order to get a college scholarship." Enjoyment of the sport, playing against top competition and seeing different areas of the country all have intangible value that each athlete and family needs to consider. As the final litmus test, families should ask themselves, "If the allure of a college scholarship is taken completely out of the picture, are the costs and time invested still worthwhile?"
As a young athlete, I traveled throughout the Northeast. The competition and camaraderie with my teammates created memories I cherish to this day. But the concept of playing for a college scholarship never entered into the equation. I am thankful that my parents afforded me that opportunity, but also that it didn’t come at the expense of saving for my college education.
It’s never too late to get started with a 529 plan. You can learn more about the options available in your state at http://www.collegesavings.org/.