Betting on a sports scholarship to pay for kids' college? Don't

By Megan Cerullo

/ MoneyWatch

Parents bet on kids' sports for scholarships

With the crushing cost of higher education in the U.S. and student debt continuing to climb, many U.S. parents have a dream for their children: a college sports scholarship, and maybe even a lucrative professional career. In all but a few exceptional cases, however, it is an impossible dream, while the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars families invest in coaching fees, equipment and travel can drain bank accounts and disrupt parents' retirement plans.

A recent study by TD Ameritrade found that a fifth of parents with kids in sports are either sure their child will win a college athletic scholarship or are counting on it — another 30% are are "highly hopeful" or "fairly sure" of hitting the academic jackpot. At the same time, many parents say they spend $500 or more per month on youth sports, requiring them to cut back on family vacations and other expenses. Others work overtime, wrack up credit card debt, raid kids' college funds and dip into their own retirement accounts to pay for child athletics.

If the goal is to help defray the cost of attending college, that approach seldom pays off, experts say.

Trending News

"The finances don't make sense. Except for in a few sports. like football and basketball, scholarships are rare and partial," said Villanova University professor Rick Eckstein, a nationally recognized expert on youth and intercollegiate sports. "The financial payout is exaggerated in the eyes of families."

Parents — especially dads — are betting on their kids earning college sports scholarships, even when children are only middling athletes, according to TD Ameritrade. Indeed there is a widening gulf between parents' expectations of their children and the reality of college admissions. Only 11% of young people got sports scholarships to attend college this year — that's down from 24% in 2016.

The poll surveyed 1,000 adults with at least one child who played "club or elite competitive youth sports"

"Families are assuming there will be a payoff scholarship-wise and a lot of misconceptions take place," Eckstein said.

Chasing the dream

It's hard to know exactly many sports scholarships are awarded each year and what they're worth because, while public colleges and universities disclose that information, private schools tend to keep a lid on it.

"It's not a part of the everyday lexicon and discussions that take place within the recruiting framework or within the media, and a lot of exaggeration takes place," Eckstein said. "Someone will report that someone is on a scholarship, but they could be getting $12."

Youth leagues also perpetuate the notion that participation will lead to a full ride to college. "Coaches use it as a marketing tool — it's purposeful and they use it to market various aspects of the sports industry," Eckstein said.

Chasing the dream can disrupt family finances. Nineteen percent of parents with child athletes said they were wiling to, or already had, reduced their savings for retirement and other purposes, while nine percent said they would or had already cut back on money set aside for their kid's education, according to TD Ameritrade. Meanwhile, on average, parents of kids who play competitive sports spend twice as much time on their children's athletics as they do managing their own finances.

How can families tackle student loan debt?

"Delaying retirement or even not investing for retirement are sacrifices parents shouldn't make. While securing athletic scholarships is potentially a long shot for a child, for them, retirement will be happening at some point," said Dara Luber, senior manager of retirement at TD Ameritrade.

For some families, the consequences can be financially disastrous. Psychologist Dara Bushman, who works with young athletes and their families, recalls one family that had gone into serious debt investing in their 12-year-old daughter's ice-skating career. "They overspent on lessons and the cost of competing and kept shelling out the money, and now they are in debt, had to sell their house and have gone into bankruptcy," she said.

While the athlete in question is talented, there's no guarantee she'll fulfill her parents' hopes of her becoming an Olympian. "Their idea was that their child would hopefully be an Olympic competitor but it's not a known or set thing. The child is young and there are a lot of factors. She hasn't even hit puberty," Bushman said.

First published on May 20, 2019 / 3:48 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Betting on a sports scholarship for kids' college? Don't

Some parents are delaying retirement in hopes that a child's athletics pursuits will pay off in the long run

1M ago

White House directs McGahn not to testify

The former White House counsel was a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's report

updated 2M ago

Vienna Beef hot dogs recalled as they could contain metal

Maker of Chicago-style hot dogs says 2,000 pounds of beef frank links may be contaminated with "extraneous material"

updated 29M ago

Wall Street wants Elon Musk to stow the "sci-fi" projects

Tesla's stock price fell to its lowest level since 2016 after an influential stock analyst questioned its prospects

59M ago

NYPD officer accused of plotting to kill her husband and teen girl

Valerie Cincinelli's arrest was the result of an elaborate sting operation using a fake photo of her husband's "murder"

2H ago

White House directs McGahn not to testify

The former White House counsel was a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's report

updated 2M ago

Guatemalan teen is latest child to die in U.S. custody

The boy was "found unresponsive" Monday morning after spending the night at a border patrol facility in Texas, according to agency officials

2H ago

Amash gets primary challenger following tweets about Trump

State Rep. Jim Lower was already planning on challenging Amash, but made the announcement earlier than planned after Amash attacked the president

5H ago

Kamala Harris introduces plan to end gender pay gap

The California Democrat would exact financial penalties from companies that fail to comply

3H ago

Trump issues harsh warning to Iran

After rocket lands near U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, president tweets Iran would meet "its official end" if Tehran wants to fight U.S.

5H ago

Doctors end life support for man in landmark right-to-die case

Lambert has been in a vegetative state since 2008 while family and doctors have debated his future

1H ago

Guatemalan teen is latest child to die in U.S. custody

The boy was "found unresponsive" Monday morning after spending the night at a border patrol facility in Texas, according to agency officials

2H ago

Convicted Russian agent Maria Butina releases video from jail

Russian gun-rights activist serving U.S. prison sentence for acting as an unregistered foreign agent

2H ago

Eiffel Tower closes down after man scales the monument

In 2015, someone else climbed the tower, dodging security cameras as he went

4H ago

Global Goalscast: Connecting peace and an end to hunger

People around the world are at risk of starvation, but in many cases the issue doesn't stem from a lack of food

4H ago

Director says she wept while screening "When They See Us"

Ava DuVernay says she wanted to "humanize" the teens in the four-part Netflix series

7M ago

New on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon

Shows and movies you'll want to stream in May

Apr 26 36 photos

Plastic water bottles spotted in "Game of Thrones" finale

These errors had nothing to do with the plot

1H ago

Met Gala 2019: Red carpet looks

See what all your favorite celebrities wore to fashion's biggest night

May 6 80 photos

"Game of Thrones" fans stunned by fate of Iron Throne

After eight seasons of war, fire-breathing dragons, ice zombies and constant political turmoil, the series finale aired Sunday night

4H ago

Wall Street wants Elon Musk to stow the "sci-fi" projects

Tesla's stock price fell to its lowest level since 2016 after an influential stock analyst questioned its prospects

59M ago

Stock prices drop on Huawei ban, particularly chipmakers and technology stocks

The U.S. decision to ban technology sales to China's Huawei hammered the technology sector, especially chipmakers

3H ago

FCC chief supports T-Mobile and Sprint merger

Ajit Pai said the corporate combo will bring faster mobile broadband to rural America and hasten rollout of 5G technology

3H ago

Google makes move against Chinese telecom giant Huawei: Report

The search and mobile giant's apparent move follows Trump's executive order that effectively bans the Chinese company in the U.S., according to Reuters

18H ago

Flying cars: Ready to take off

After decades of promises, flying cars are finally becoming real, though they won't look like what "The Jetsons" promised

May 17

Nature up close: Our javelina scare

A trip through the Amazon brought Judy Lehmberg up-close-and-personal with a herd of peccaries

21M ago

Nature up close: Wild horses of the Outer Banks

Videographer Carl Mrozek on the mustangs, descended from the horses left behind by Spanish colonialists, who are survivors on the beaches of North Carolina

May 17

Does "climate change" need a makeover? Some think so. Here's why.

"It's now a crisis, an emergency, and we need to engage people to demand smart policy and innovation."

May 16

High winds scrub SpaceX launch of internet relay satellites

While disappointing, SpaceX was taking no chances with launch of its heaviest payload to date

May 15

The meatless meat market is sizzling for investors

The most buzzed-about products in the meatless market taste just like the real thing — and investors are taking notice

May 15

Vienna Beef hot dogs recalled as they could contain metal

Maker of Chicago-style hot dogs says 2,000 pounds of beef frank links may be contaminated with "extraneous material"

updated 29M ago

Purely Elizabeth granola may contain glass, plastic or rocks

Maker says some breakfast and snack products sold nationwide may contain foreign matter like rocks, glass or plastic

2H ago

Trump weekend tweets on abortion aims to tone down debate

A senior White House official didn't believe the president would have signed the Alabama law if he were governor

5H ago

A low-fat diet can lower a woman's breast cancer risk, study suggests

The American Society of Clinical Oncology's 20-year study looked at 49,000 women split into two groups with varying diets

19H ago

The world's oldest pharmacy

Rose water was just one creation of the Dominican monks who in the 13th century began experimenting with alchemy at Florence's Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy

May 19

Betting on a sports scholarship for kids' college? Don't

Some parents are delaying retirement in hopes that a child's athletics pursuits will pay off in the long run

1M ago

Vienna Beef hot dogs recalled as they could contain metal

Maker of Chicago-style hot dogs says 2,000 pounds of beef frank links may be contaminated with "extraneous material"

updated 29M ago

Wall Street wants Elon Musk to stow the "sci-fi" projects

Tesla's stock price fell to its lowest level since 2016 after an influential stock analyst questioned its prospects

59M ago

Who is Morehouse billionaire benefactor Robert F. Smith?

Investor worth $5 billion pledged to pay off $40 million in student debt for Morehouse College's entire class of 2019

2H ago

Stock prices drop on Huawei ban, particularly chipmakers and technology stocks

The U.S. decision to ban technology sales to China's Huawei hammered the technology sector, especially chipmakers

3H ago

Crime

Dallas transgender woman shot to death

A transgender woman who was attacked on video a month ago has died. Dallas police have confirmed that Muhlaysia Booker was shot to death. Steve Pickett of CBS station KTVT reports from Dallas.

2M ago

NYPD officer accused of plotting to kill her husband and teen girl

Valerie Cincinelli's arrest was the result of an elaborate sting operation using a fake photo of her husband's "murder"

2H ago

Transgender woman seen in videotaped attack found dead

Muhlaysia Booker was attacked as crowd looked on and cheered last month in Dallas incident caught on video that went viral

1H ago

Convicted Russian agent Maria Butina releases video from jail

Russian gun-rights activist serving U.S. prison sentence for acting as an unregistered foreign agent

2H ago

Ava DuVernay on humanizing Central Park Five

In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were wrongly accused of the brutal rape of a jogger in New York City’s Central Park. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise became known as the Central Park Five. The boys were charged and convicted with no physical evidence implicating them. But in 2002, their convictions were overturned after DNA evidence and a confession exonerated them. Director Ava DuVernay joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss her Netflix four-part series on the Central Park Five, "When They See Us."

6H ago 06:02

High winds scrub SpaceX launch of internet relay satellites

While disappointing, SpaceX was taking no chances with launch of its heaviest payload to date

May 15

NASA wants to send first woman to the moon

NASA is gearing up to send American astronauts back to the moon by 2024, and it hopes to include a woman for the first time. The Trump administration has asked Congress to approve an additional $1.6 billion for NASA's budget. CBS News space consultant Bill Harwood joined CBSN to discuss the ambitious plans.

May 14 04:35

NASA vows to make ambitious plan to return to the moon "a reality"

The newly announced Artemis program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, intends to land astronauts on the South Pole of the moon by 2024

May 14

Trump backs early moon landing with funding request

Trump administration asks Congress to kick-start NASA moon mission with $1.6 billion in additional 2020 funding

May 14

Shrinking moon may be causing "moonquakes"

NASA says the moon is shrinking and it may be creating so-called "moonquakes." Scientists say the moon's interior is cooling and causing it to shrivel up like a raisin. The shrinking has caused ridges on the moon's surface called "thrust faults" — where one section of crust is pushed up over a neighboring part. Scientists now believe those faults are to blame for the tremors.

May 14 00:44

Britain's royal great-grandchildren

Prince Harry's new baby Archie is the eighth great-grandchild for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

May 8 9 photos

Met Gala 2019: Red carpet looks

See what all your favorite celebrities wore to fashion's biggest night

May 6 80 photos

Dale Pike murder: Evidence photos in the case against Enrico Forti

In 1998, Dale Pike came to Miami to discuss a business deal with Enrico Forti — the next day he was dead, and Forti was the prime suspect

May 3 17 photos

Worst movie sequels since 2000, ranked

These are the lowest-rated sequels this century, according to Metacritic's rankings

Apr 30 51 photos

Private secrets shared via postcard

Since 2004, hundreds of thousands of anonymous contributors with something to get off their chest have sent postcards to the website PostSecret.com

Apr 28 32 photos

Popular

Dallas transgender woman shot to death

A transgender woman who was attacked on video a month ago has died. Dallas police have confirmed that Muhlaysia Booker was shot to death. Steve Pickett of CBS station KTVT reports from Dallas.

2M ago

Guatamalan migrant teen dies in U.S. custody

A 16-year-old boy from Guatemala was found unresponsive at a Border Patrol station in Texas today, a week after he was apprehended crossing the U.S. border. CBS News investigative reporter Graham Kates joins CBSN with more.

updated 42M ago 03:11

Parents bet on kids' sports for scholarships

Parents of kids who play sports are sometimes delaying their retirements, hoping investment in athletics will pay off in the long run.

1H ago 00:58

Pardons for Americans accused of war crimes?

President Trump is considering pardons for several Americans accused or convicted of war crimes, including the murder of civilians and desecrating a corpse. New York Times national correspondent David Philipps tells CBS News that the White House requested an expedited process so pardons could be announced Memorial Day weekend.

2H ago 05:47

Biden surges past Trump in online ad spending

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden has officially surged past President Trump when it comes to online ad spending, with $1.5 million on Google and Facebook ads since the beginning of the year. Axios media reporter Sara Fischer joins CBSN to explain the significance.

2H ago 00:30