Area ADs weigh in on 'full cost of attendance' issue

Jul. 17, 2014 @ 09:24 PM

In early August, the NCAA’s five highest-revenue conferences — the so-called “Power 5” — may be given the power to offer more benefits for their athletes.

If that happens, N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow believes that the first issue up for debate would be providing athletes with the full cost of attendance — closing the gap between what a scholarship provides and what it actually costs to attend the school. That gap is thousands of dollars, though the exact amount varies by school.

“It sounds like such a simple idea but it is anything but that, for a couple of reasons,” Yow said.

Yow and fellow athletic directors Kevin White of Duke, Bubba Cunningham of North Carolina and Ingrid Wicker-McCree of N.C. Central discussed the complications of the cost of attendance issue during an event at Full Frame Theater Thursday that was organized by WRAL.

The first issue Yow mentioned was Title IX.

“(Title IX) doesn’t recognize revenue-producing sports,” Yow said. “If we’re going to do this for the men, are we also going to have to do this for the women?”

Yow also wondered if increasing scholarships to include the full cost of attendance would just mean that colleges were subsidizing the federal government. She used an example of an N.C. State football player who received $5,700 a year as a full Pell Grant recipient and she assumed a full cost of attendance gap of $4,000.

“When I gave you the extra $4,000 is it counted against the Pell Grant, and do they deduct $4,000 from that, and in fact you don’t get more money?” Yow said. “I would like for someone to answer that question for me.”

Cunningham said UNC already gets $500,000 a year from an NCAA student assistance fund that can be given to student-athletes in need, and some athletes get up to $11,000 a year. He was concerned that spending more money could decrease the opportunities for kids who want to play collegiate sports.

“The more we go down this professional model and get away from the collegiate model, I think we’re going to reduce opportunities, whether by choice or by legislation,” Cunningham said. “So I think we need to be careful.”

Earlier this summer, Wicker-McCree said that the MEAC decided not to follow a new NCAA guideline that allows Division I athletes to receive unlimited meals and snacks. She said that the cost of attendance issue would be another challenge for non-Power 5 conferences, though she didn’t think that should be a reason to stop it from moving forward.

“I think we should not hinder those larger institutions that have more resources,” Wicker-McCree said.

White said that a scholarship athlete at a private school like Duke could already be receiving the equivalent of $500,000 in benefits over a four-year career. He would prefer a system that provided full cost of attendance only to those in need instead of offering it to everyone. Either way, he said he was glad to be having the discussion.

“If we don’t accomplish anything else (at this event),” White said. “I’m hoping we could get people around the country talking about the fact that we need to take a long hard look on full cost of attendance based on need and protecting those kids that right now qualify for Pell Grants so they stay at full strength.”