Skip to main content

All Collegiate Levels Explained

4 Year Institutions
Division, I is sanctioned under the National Collegiate Athletic Association and is the highest level of college athletics. Schools are genuinely large state or private universities that have large budgets for athletics. As a whole NCAA Division, I have the most athletic scholarships to provide. Division I universities must field a minimum of 7 sports for both men and women. Division I universities must meet minimum financial aid awards for their athletics program. There are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Division I school cannot exceed.

Is the second-highest division in the NCAA. Division II universities tend to be smaller public and private universities. Athletic scholarships are also offered at this level. NCAA DII schools can move to become Division I schools if accepted by a Division I conference and meet the NCAA financial aid requirements. 43% of Division II schools have an enrollment of fewer than 2500 students. And only 14 have an enrollment of 14,000+ including the NCAA’s only Canadian institution: Simon Fraser.

Is the lowest division in the NCAA. Division III universities choose not to offer athletic scholarships. These non-athletic scholarships providing schools split off from Division II and formed Division III. There are academic scholarships available for athletes but cannot be given on the premise of athletic ability. Schools cannot use endowments or funds to improve athletic programs. Redshirting is not allowed at the NCAA DIII level.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics consists of 251 universities. NAIA typically consists of smaller universities and can provide athletic scholarships. The NAIA is separate from the NCAA and has different rules when it comes to scholarships, recruiting, and eligibility. The NAIA Return on Athletics Program provides institutional-level insight so members can maximize the impact athletics has on enrollment, student success, and financial viability.

Is the national governing body of university sports in Canada. USPORTS was formally the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) the change was made to be easily recognized in both French and English languages. The USPORTS member institutions offer athletic scholarships known as Athletic Financial Awards (AFA). The AFAs are capped per team with minimum academic requirements. USPORTS institutions can raise private funds to support their athletic program, unlike the NCAA or NAIA.

Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association consists of typically smaller universities and colleges across Canada. Institutions can be part of USPORTS and CCAA at the same time. The CCAA is larger and consists of 94 for institutions compared to the 54 of USPORTS.


2 Year Institutions
The National Junior College Athletic Association. This governing body has 525 junior, community, and state colleges across the US. These institutions are 2-year programs. The NJCAA follows the same pattern as the NCAA with three Divisions (Division I,II,III). NJCAA DI institutions can offer “full rides” including tuition, room & board, and books. NJCAA DII is limited to only tuition and fees. NJCAA DIII cannot award athletic scholarships.

The California Community College Athletic Association is the sports organization for colleges in the US state of California. There are over 108 athletic programs in the CCCAA. The CCCAA offers 24 sports in 9 conferences. Out of state recruiting is not permissible. Athletes cannot receive athletic scholarships but can apply for financial aid called a FASFA.

The Northwest Athletic Conference is the parent organization for 36 community colleges located in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Financial aid can be given upon a signed letter of intent giving the resident of that state. Depending on each state's financial aid eligibility requirements a tuition waiver of up to 40% can be given.