Ohio universities offering scholarships for students who play competitive video games

Competitive video game play generating scholarships, varsity leagues in Northeast Ohio

WESTLAKE, OH (WOIO) - Are you good at video games? If the answer is yes, your skills could earn you a scholarship to college.

Several Ohio universities are offering partial tuition to students who play on their varsity esports teams. While the term "esports," can include many types of video games, it usually applies to highly competitive, multiplayer games, like League of Legends, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike.

The University of Akron, Kent State University and Miami University are just three Ohio colleges that have varsity teams for college students.

At the University of Akron, where students are eligible for scholarships in exchange for playing esports, university officials say they're making investments to upgrade facilities. This comes as the school announced it will eliminate 80 degree programs, including art history, physics, and math. The cuts are about 20 percent of its current offerings, although university leaders say those programs have had low enrollment for several years.

"Embracing esports allows the University to continue attracting top students while providing an innovative pathway for students to flourish academically, socially and professionally," said President Matthew Wilson in a statement released with the announcement of expanded esports facilities.

In response, a group of teachers from the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to the Board of Trustees, sharply criticizing the decision to cut academic degrees while expanding esports.

"This shows a serious lack of judgment and indicates that you are violating the trust that has been placed in your hands for protecting and enhancing the University of Akron," read part of that letter.

Some local organizations and business owners, though, say there is a future for esports, one that can mean a lot of money for people who embrace esports.

1 Life 2 Play opened its doors on Center Ridge Road in Westlake earlier this year. It's a full-time esports lounge, where players can pay to use computers, fully downloaded with the equipment and software they need to play. It's been so popular, it's owners say, it's now their full-time job.

Keven Barrera, who founded the esports event organizer Outer Haven in Cleveland, holds meet-ups for gamers every Wednesday at 1 Life 2 Play. He says esports are a booming business, and it's growing.

"There's money to be made and there's a large demographic, between the ages of 18 to 35 and 65 years old," said Barrera. "It's pretty crazy what's happening with esports and gaming."

Tracella Borgia, a part of Outer Haven, says she wishes scholarships were available when she was ready to apply for college. She thinks this is a trend of the future, and one that could attract more students to go to school.

"Now that you have the scholarships, you'll see that you're actually going to go to a university," said Borgia. "You're going to take this even more seriously, as something that you love. It's a passion. Before, you could only go for game development. Now you can go actually go for playing it and being good at the game."

You can find out more about 1 Life 2 Play at their website here.

You can find out more about Outer Haven at its Facebook page here.

Find the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors here.

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