You may have heard of Fortnite, the new, free game that’s sweeping the nation and irking teachers everywhere, but parents and school administrators may have to re-think their disciplinary plan: Fortnite could actually help kids stay in school.
Last week, Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio became the first university to announce it would offer scholarships for students who can play it well starting in the fall of 2018. Josh Buchanan, the university’s head coach of e-sports cited the game’s growing popularity and wide appeal in his announcement of the new program.
Ashland University is one of 66 colleges and universities in the U.S. that have joined the National Association of Collegiate Esports since it was founded in 2016. The schools recruit esports players the same way they would a varsity athlete, and many of the athletes receive scholarships as their traditional-sports counterparts would.
Last year Kurt Melcher, executive director of e-sports at Robert Morris University, told Fortune that e-sports are just like all other sports in every way but physical exertion. They’re also attracting more spectators thanks to technology like Twitch, and they’re turning into big business. Microsoft (MSFT) is reportedly developing “the Netflix of video games” and last year Hulu commissioned four original series about online gaming competitions.
For its part, Ashland University is building a new gaming centre for the e-sports program complete with 25 gaming stations. The e-sports program offers scholarships of up to $4,000. A year of tuition and room and board at Ashland University for a traditional undergraduate costs around $30,000.