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Division II partial-scholarship model

Division II relies on a partial-scholarship model to administer athletics-based financial aid.  Very few of the 110,000 student-athletes competing in Division II will receive a full athletics grant that covers all of their expenses, but most of them will receive some athletics-based financial aid to help them through school. For the rest of their expenses, student-athletes use academic scholarships, student loans and employment earnings just like most other students attending the school.

The partial-scholarship model allows Division II schools to recognize student-athletes for their skills through athletics-based aid, while at the same time keeping athletics budgets more in line with the institution’s bottom line. It costs Division II schools about half as much to sponsor a competitive athletics program as it does in Division I. The net operating costs in Division II even tend to be lower than for programs of similar size in Division III (primarily because of higher net operating revenues in Division II).

The partial-scholarship model is sometimes referred to as an “equivalency” system. That’s because schools in Division II are allowed to award athletics-based financial aid that is “equivalent” to a certain number of full grants in each sport.

For example, in football, schools are allowed to award up to 36 “equivalencies” or full grants, but of course the rosters in football are much larger than 36 players. Thus, coaches and financial aid officers at Division II institutions decide how to allocate those equivalencies as partial scholarships. That means some student-athletes may receive more athletics-based aid than others, and some will not receive any at all. As a comparison, schools in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision are allotted 85 “full rides.”

Equivalency limits per sport
Men’s sports Women’s sports
Baseball 9 Basketball 10
Basketball 10 Bowling 5
Cross country/track 12.6 Cross country/track 12.6
Football 36 Equestrian 15.0
Fencing 4.5 Fencing 4.5
Golf 3.6 Field hockey 6.3
Gymnastics 5.4 Golf5.4
Ice hockey 13.5 Gymnastics 6.0
Lacrosse 10.8 Ice hockey 18.0
Rifle 3.6 Lacrosse9
Skiing 6.3 Rowing 20.0
Soccer 9.0 Rugby 12.0
Swimming/diving 8.1 Sand volleyball 5.0
Tennis 4.5 Skiing 6.3
Volleyball 4.5 Soccer 9.9
Water polo 4.5 Softball 7.2
Wrestling 9.0 Swimming/diving 8.1
    Tennis 6.0
    Volleyball 8.0
    Water polo 8.0

The partial-scholarship model is a purposeful choice Division II institutions make to operate their athletics programs in the balanced approach inherent within the division’s philosophy.

Division II recently commissioned a study on the financial impact of the partial-scholarship model and found that in general, scholarship student-athletes benefit institutions’ overall academic profile, and the partial-aid model generates revenue for the school.

The study found that athletics scholarship athletes – particularly women – bolster an institution’s academic profile and increase ethnic and geographic diversity among new students. In just about every measurable way, the study showed that scholarship student-athletes contribute positively, which means that even absent their participation in athletics, institutions would still be happy to have them as students on their campuses.

The partial-scholarship model offers a cost-effective alternative for institutions to operate their athletics programs. Division II’s partial-scholarship model actually contributes as a revenue producer for the institution, particularly when compared to the alternatives of full scholarships (Division I) or no athletics grants-in-aid (Division III).