Women’s basketball recruits often set their sights at playing at the NCAA D1, D2 or D3 levels. However, many potential recruits overlook—or haven’t even heard of—playing sports at a different regulatory organization, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. In recent years, NAIA women’s basketball schools have grown in size, and like the NCAA, NAIA women’s basketball colleges are highly competitive. NAIA women’s basketball schools are similar athletically and academically to those at the NCAA Division 3 level. Like the NCAA D3, NAIA women’s basketball colleges also don’t have to follow strict recruiting rules, allowing college coaches to reach out to student-athletes—and vice versa—at any point in their high-school basketball careers.
Despite the similar sports-life balance and well-rounded, traditional college experience as programs at the NCAA D3 level, there is one major component that set NAIA women’s basketball schools apart: they offer athletic scholarships. This makes NAIA a top choice for student-athletes looking to drive down their college costs by combining need-based grants and financial aid with both academic and athletic based scholarships.
We included more information below about NAIA women’s basketball schools, including a step-by-step breakdown of how many scholarships can NAIA schools give for women’s basketball programs at each level. Learn more about the process of college basketball recruiting rankings.
Women’s basketball recruits who want to pursue their sport at the collegiate level while having a more traditional college experience—with an emphasis on excelling in academics and pursuing other extracurricular interests—should consider going to one of the 235 NAIA women’s basketball colleges located across the U.S. Despite being smaller in size than each of the NCAA division levels, at nearly 250 active programs, NAIA women’s basketball schools are still a great option for athletes who want to take their game to the next level. Learn more about the competitiveness in AAU girls basketball.
Potential NAIA student-athletes should start narrowing down their options after exploring a full list of NAIA women’s basketball colleges. While recruits should also check out which schools top the NAIA women’s basketball rankings, remember to base decisions on other factors, like which NAIA programs offer your intended major and whether you’d feel more comfortable at a school closer to home or want to explore a different part of the U.S.
While NAIA women’s basketball colleges share many similarities with NCAA Division 3 colleges, there’s one major difference. Unlike programs at the NCAA D3 level, NAIA women’s basketball schools offer both academic and athletic scholarships, making them a slightly more cost-effective option for recruits who are interested in combining athletic, academic and need-based aid to create a robust financial aid package. NAIA women’s basketball colleges—along with NAIA women’s basketball rankings—are split into two division levels, NAIA Division 1 and NAIA Division 2.
Both NAIA D1 and D2 programs offer equivalency scholarships, meaning that there are a set number of scholarships per team which can be split among as many or few athletes as the coach chooses. A maximum of 11 scholarships are offered to NAIA women’s basketball colleges who compete at the D1 level, while D2 programs receive a maximum of 6 scholarships per team.
What does this mean for a recruit’s athletic scholarship opportunities at the NAIA level? With an average roster size of about 16 athletes per team, if a college coach decided to give out full rides, not everyone would make the cut. Most coaches typically split up these scholarships, providing each team member with at least a partial athletic scholarship. However, not all coaches split up scholarships equally—for instance, it’s possible for certain recruits to receive different, higher or lower scholarship amounts based on their overall and position-specific athletic skills.
Several organizations offer NAIA women’s basketball rankings, including the NAIA and DakStats. Here are the best NAIA women’s basketball colleges, according to the NCSA Power Rankings:
The NCSA Power Rankings are a great resource both for basketball recruits who are just starting their search, as well as for those who are narrowing down their target lists. Regardless of where you are at in your college search process, explore a full list of NAIA women’s basketball colleges and see if your favorites appear on the NAIA women’s basketball rankings below.