NCAA considers changing Division I financial aid model

Financial Aid Cabinet members are considering changing the way institutional aid factors into team totals.
July 28, 2009

The NCAA Division I Financial Aid Cabinet is considering changing the way certain types of financial aid factor into institutional totals as part of a comprehensive review in the division’s financial aid bylaws.
Each sport has a limit on the number of athletics scholarships they can give to student-athletes. That number includes scholarships that count as full or half scholarships or less, depending on their size. For instance, football has a limit of 85 and baseball has 11.7. Under the current NCAA rules, other financial aid may count toward that limit.
This is problematic when the sport is at their NCAA limit, sometimes forcing student-athletes to reject need-based aid that would count toward the limit and negatively affect the team’s totals, J.T. Bruett , University of Minnesota director of athletic compliance, said.
“The NCAA rules preclude student-athletes from accepting some institutional financial aid as well as outside financial aid depending on whether or not it has an athletic nexus to it,” Bruett said. “All institutional financial aid is countable financial aid to the sport, and any outside financial aid with an athletic nexus as a major criterion is also countable [as an athletic scholarship].”
Division I Financial Aid Cabinet Chair Grace Calhoun said the cabinet has met several times since September to review the bylaws and is currently undergoing further studies, including examining which forms of financial aid count toward a sport’s scholarship limit and what those limits are.
“We’re trying to ensure that the model is built with student-athlete well-being at the forefront,” she said.
Calhoun said that along with the goal of simplifying the model, cabinet members don’t want student-athletes who demonstrate legitimate financial need to feel they can’t accept money that would help cover that need because of the financial aid restriction.
University of Minnesota men’s tennis coach Geoff Young said the athletic scholarship limit for tennis, 4.5, has affected his team in the past, but many of his tennis players haven’t qualified for need-based aid.
Most sports reach their athletic scholarship limit, Bruett said, so the changes would make it easier for some student-athletes.
“If you have a student-athlete who also has some other institutional financial aid that, under the rule, has to count as a scholarship, the majority of sports don’t have room to count that, so then the student-athlete has to decide whether to accept the institutional financial aid and not be on the team or turn down the institutional financial aid,” Bruett said. “That’s a hard conversation to have with a parent.”
Originally put in place to stop institutions from awarding financial aid to prospects to get them to play there, Bruett said some of the current rules would be deregulated with these changes and allow student-athletes to keep institutional financial aid without it counting toward the team’s limit.
He said he doesn’t think the old problem would arise again if these changes came into effect, but Calhoun said cabinet members are trying to find a balance.
“How do you balance those two issues and feel like you preserve the good pieces of the regulations to make sure we’re competing on a somewhat level playing field but, at the same time, always coming back to what’s truly in the student-athlete’s best interest?” she said.
Kristin Basballe , financial aid coordinator for student athletes, said the changes would benefit approximately 100 student-athletes at the University.
Calhoun said the cabinet will meet again this September to refine alternative financial aid models and then develop NCAA legislative proposals for the 2010-11 cycle in the spring. If passed, the changes would come into effect during the 2011-12 year.

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