Is playing video games the best way to spend your time? Not really, unless, of course, you’re applying for a $50,000 scholarship to Robert Morris University in Chicago.

Douglas Belkin of the Wall Street Journal has the story:

Liberal Education: At This College, Videogames Are a Varsity Sport

ean Bensema stayed up late one recent evening practicing and woke up unusually early the next morning to prepare for the biggest moment of his life: a tryout for an athletic scholarship to college.

The shaggy-haired 18-year-old didn’t need to change out of the T-shirt he slept in or even leave his parents’ house to make the squad. He just set up his laptop on the dining-room table and started stunning his enemies with fire shot from the hands of his digital avatar.

Mr. Bensema is among 150 players competing for a spot on the nation’s first varsity videogame team. At stake: a scholarship that might be worth $50,000.

“Am I nervous? Yes, I am definitely nervous!” Mr. Bensema said. “Usually, I just play for fun, you know. This is different.”

In a time of tight budgets, many colleges have been cutting back scholarships and eliminating programs in sports like swimming and gymnastics.

Robert Morris University, a small, accredited private school whose main campus is in downtown Chicago, has taken a different tack—boosting the number of athletic scholarships to more than 700, from 150 a decade ago, in a bid to stem declining enrollment.

Today, among the school’s more than 3,200 undergraduates, there are scholarship athletes in bowling, color guard, cheerleading and dance. One student gets $6,000 for dressing up as “Fuzzy,” the school’s eagle mascot. Other athletic scholarships that have been or are being considered include roller derby, bass fishing and paintball.

Touted as a way to improve team spirit and develop life skills, the scholarships are a way to drive down the $44,000 cost of tuition, room and board.