As the broad-based popularity of esports continue to grow, colleges are reacting in kind. Conferences are launching esports competitions, some individual colleges are aggressively targeting skilled esports players and, now, at least one college is jumping on board the next big thing and offering true scholarship money to entice elite players.
As reported by Digital Trends, Ashland University in Ohio has incorporated the battle royale shooter Fortnite into its esports scholarship program. The school initiated its esports scholarship program in fall 2017, offering grant-in-aid money to student e-athletes who excelled playing League of Legends, Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Rocket League.
To be fair, it’s not as if Ashland is offering Fortnite players a full ride; per Digital Trends, the top scholarships earmarked for Fortnite players total just $4,000 per year per player. That’s off a total annual price tag of $31,000.
Still, that Ashland has ‘broken the seal’ on scholarship money for Fortnite players is notable in itself. The school became one of a very small collective who openly advertise and recruit for its esports program, following the likes of the University of California-Irvine (UCI), which initiated a League of Legends scholarship program in 2016 and added Overwatch e-athletes in 2017. UCI’s program is structured much like competitive sports at Division I schools, including designated training areas and a team psychologist.
If Ashland is trying to keep up with those standards, it’s ahead of all others in its willingness to adapt to the next wave of elite gamers and what they want.