Merit money for D3 athletes?

I know that there are no athletic scholarships at D3 schools. Anecdotally, however, have people found that schools encourage recruited athletes to come through merit money? Or are recruited athletes truly in no different position (or a possibly worse position if they apply ED) than any other applicant to the school? I also know that many schools give no to almost no merit money to anyone. I am wondering about schools that do give merit to 20-40% of the class.

D3 schools that offer merit money do so for all students who meet a certain criteria, so merit money cannot be offered to an athlete because they are an athlete as an enticement to attend. However, if that athlete meets a threshold for merit – such as one based on GPA and test scores - they will be offered merit.

To be offered merit for being an athlete is tantamount to offering an athletic scholarship which is prohibited for D3 schools.


Adding that all D3 schools must routinely give the Feds an accounting of the average merit awarded to athletes and non-athletes, as a double check in the system.


The Feds or the NCAA?

Oops yes…clarifying…The school reports data (annually) to the NCAA, who does the monitoring, although all the financial aid data is reported to the Feds via Ipeds too.

Here’s the nitty gritty on the NCAA requirements, Bylaws Article 15 starting on page 90.

Recruited athletes are oftentimes in a much better position with regard to the possibility of acceptance, but should be in no better position with regard to aid.


The NCAA has investigated (and penalized) a number of D3 schools for offering disguised athletic scholarships. Some D3 schools still get it wrong. They cannot steer athletes to academic scholarships if they do not steer the non athletes to the same scholarship. They cannot consider athletic leadership (e.g., team captain) as evidence of leadership. In general, the proportion of athletes who receive merit aid should be roughly equivalent to the percentage of athletes at the school. Any significant variation is likely to prompt an investigation. There should be no athletic dep’t input into merit awards.

This is a dated article, but it highlights some D3s that were caught. Dozens of Division III colleges violated financial aid rules in past decade. You can go through the NCAA website and find all of the results.

Recruited athletes can definitely benefit admissions wise, but if they benefit with financial aid, there is something wrong and it will only be a matter of time before the NCAA gets wind of it.