Perks of Being a Student Athlete at Penn State

According to the Department of Undergraduate Studies, 810 student athletes are enrolled at University Park. We looked into what perks come along with representing Penn State at the Division 1 level.


“Penn State has a long history and tradition of combining academic excellence with athletic success,” said Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour when talking about Penn State’s recent Graduation Success Rate.

Last fall, 59 percent of Penn State’s student athletes earned at least a 3.0 GPA, with 197 earning dean’s list honors for having above a 3.5 GPA. Penn State student athletes’ graduation rate far surpasses the national average.

All student athletes must be enrolled full-time, taking a minimum of 12 credits per semester. According to the Penn State Code of Conduct for Intercollegiate Athletics, student athletes “assume final responsibility for course scheduling, program planning, and the successful completion of graduation requirements.”

The Morgan Academic Support Center helps student athletes with tutoring and academic counseling. According to its website, the center “offers comprehensive academic support programs that focus on building skills to be a successful student, adjust to the many transitions during the undergraduate experience, and prepare for life after intercollegiate sports.”

Last but not least, student athletes can rent required textbooks and materials from the student bookstore for free.

Food And Housing

First-year student athletes must live on campus. After that, “if a player wishes to move off-campus, he or she must get permission from the coach, and will then receive a check on a semester basis that’s equivalent to the cost of an on-campus room,” said Director of Compliance Andy Banse in an interview with Penn Live

Following a change in NCAA guidelines this past April, student athletes can now receive unlimited meals and snacks. As a result, Penn State introduced “Enhanced Fueling Stations” for student athletes. 

“The welfare of our student athletes is a top priority,” said Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour following the announcement. “With the change in the NCAA rules in this area, we are now able to provide enhanced nutritional options for our student athletes. These stations will not only fuel them on the playing field, but also in the classroom, which is equally as important. We are delighted to bring this new asset to the Penn State student athlete experience.”

Free Stuff

Student athletes are easy to spot on campus. Most carry the official Penn State Nike backpacks, often with their sport and name embroidered on them, or a plastic tag hanging from the straps.

The NCAA no longer regulates what or how much equipment and apparel student athletes can receive for free from their school. The Penn State Student Athlete Code of Conduct prohibits trading, selling, or exchanging equipment, apparel, or award items. 

Unfortunately, student athletes don’t get to ride to class in a custom Nittany Lion golf cart; that privilege is reserved for the Athletic Director.

Over the summer, Athletic Director David Joyner introduced the Intercollegiate Athletics Technology Program, which gave all student athletes an iPad to help with their school work.  “We believe the academic benefits, technological opportunities and improved accessibility will enrich the student athlete experience,” said Joyner in a press release.  

Student athletes receive awards for their participation in their respective sport. For their first year participating, athletes receive a Penn State letter jacket, and a framed varsity letter their second year. In addition, rings are given to seniors who have lettered four years and are in their senior year or last year of eligibility.


In addition to following Penn State’s Student Code of Conduct, all student athletes must adhere to the rules in the Penn State Code of Conduct for Intercollegiate Athletics. The Student Athlete Code Of Conduct “ensures ideals of excellence, scholarship, integrity, ethical conduct, diversity, leadership, public service, athletic performance and sportsmanship are fulfilled.”

Transportation to away games is provided by the university, and some of the teams travel in style.

Student athletes also receive four free tickets for their families for home and away games.

The NCAA has a  $73 million Student Assistance Fund that is allocated between all member schools. According to the NCAA website, the Student Assistance Fund allows athletic programs to “help student-athletes with unmet financial needs.”

The NCAA also has a program in place to help cover medical costs if student athletes are injured. According to their website, the NCAA provides “tools and resources necessary to control costs and reduce expenses related to athletics injuries, including a reasonable insurance solution, risk-management strategies, cost-containment solutions, and administrative service.” There is a separate insurance fund if a student athlete sustains a catastrophic injury.

According to Penn Live, Penn State may provide all student athletes with yearly monetary awards for participation. The money cannot be given in cash or a check, so the awards are used to give student athletes gifts or gift cards. Underclassmen can get an award valued up to $225, and seniors up to $425. 


“Student athletes have always served as tremendous ambassadors of this university,” said 2013-2014 Student Athlete Advisory President Preston Gall. “The support we receive from the surrounding community is truly incredible, and we hope our efforts can show just a fraction of our gratitude. In the classroom, on the field, in the gym, and within our community, we uphold the many traditions of athletics at this university.”

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