Parents believe sports are their kids' golden ticket to college, but athletic scholarships rarely cover full tuition—and there aren't enough to go around. Football and basketball do pay off, but otherwise the average NCAA scholarship is worth $8,707, at schools that can cost up to $50,000 a year. Plus, the sacrifices demanded of a student athlete aren't always worth the free ride.
The highest-paying college sport is ice hockey, averaging $21,755 for male players and $20,540 for women. But non-revenue sports like soccer get only a handful of scholarships, which the entire team must share. That means there's little collective offset for things like 4 a.m. practices. "Most people with good academic records aren't paying full sticker price," said NCAA president Myles Brand. (Read more athletic scholarships stories.)