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DII committee recommends financial aid concepts

Proposals on student-athlete prize money, fundraising also sponsored

The Division II Legislation Committee recommended three concepts that would substantially change the way financial aid is awarded to Division II student-athletes. The concepts, which were recommended during the committee’s March 7-8 meeting in Indianapolis, are the result of a three-year effort to review the financial aid legislation, gain membership feedback and ultimately develop new financial aid rules that better serve Division II student-athletes and administrators.

The Division II Management and Presidents Councils will consider the three concepts at their meetings in April and decide whether to sponsor them as proposals for the 2017 NCAA Convention.

If adopted by the Division II membership, the concepts would:

1.     Count only athletics aid toward individual and team equivalency limits. This model would exempt other forms of institutional aid, such as academic and need-based aid, from each sport’s equivalency limits, making it possible for student-athletes to receive more nonathletics institutional financial aid without affecting a team’s scholarship allotment. The model also is expected to reduce the burden on athletics administrators, who would have to track only aid awarded by the athletics department and ensure student-athletes do not receive an aid package that exceeds a full grant-in-aid or cost of attendance.

2.    Eliminate term-by-term financial aid awards. This change would require that financial aid be issued for a full academic year, with exceptions for specific cases such as student-athletes who enroll midyear or graduate at the end of the fall term. Already, three-fourths of financial aid awards in Division II are issued for a full year, according to Division II research data. 

3.    Permit increases in athletically related financial aid at any time, for any reason. Current rules state that once the period of the financial aid award begins, an increase in aid must be made only for reasons unrelated to athletics. This change provides more flexibility for administrators to increase financial aid as they deem appropriate.

The Legislation Committee advanced the concepts after reviewing survey results gathered before and after the 2016 Convention, where an educational session on the financial aid review was held for Division II members.

Concept No. 1 received the most support in the survey, with 69 percent of the 765 respondents either strongly in favor or in favor of the approach. The model of counting athletics aid only toward individual and team scholarship limits also is being considered at the Division I level. The Division I Council will vote on the change in April.

The Division II financial aid review was born out of the division’s broader ease-of-burden initiative, when members identified challenges with the financial aid legislation. The Legislation Committee led the review in the three years that followed, with the aim of simplifying the rules and assisting student-athletes.

“I think the financial aid review is something that is not only going to help compliance administrators and our financial aid administrators in how they apply financial aid legislation, but it’s also going to provide opportunities for our student-athletes in how they fund their education,” said Natasha Oakes, associate athletics director for compliance and senior woman administrator at Missouri Western State University and chair of the Legislation Committee.

Student-athlete prize money

The committee also sponsored a proposal that would enable Division II student-athletes in individual sports to accept prize money under certain circumstances after their initial full-time college enrollment.

The proposal mirrors legislation Division III passed in 2011, which allows college athletes to accept money based on their performance in an open athletics event without jeopardizing their amateur status, as long as the competition occurs outside the academic year during the school’s official summer vacation period and does not exceed the student-athlete’s actual and necessary expenses associated with competition. Division I adopted similar legislation that applies only in the sport of tennis in 2012.

Legislation Committee members cited instances where Division II’s unique rules on prize money have caused confusion among student-athletes and event organizers.

Student-athlete fundraising

The final proposal the Legislation Committee sponsored this month addresses money raised by student-athletes for institutional initiatives, such as foreign tours or the purchase of new uniforms. The proposal would allow a Division II school to earmark money that a student-athlete has earned through fundraising, such as by working a concession stand, to cover the student-athlete’s actual and necessary expenses associated with competition. Any additional funds earned would go toward the general fund and not to the student-athlete. Money that is considered “unearned,” such as a fundraiser involving an athletic activity or a letter-writing campaign, would not be earmarked to a particular student-athlete and instead would be distributed to the school, athletics department or team.

The Division II Presidents and Management Councils will also consider the prize money and fundraising proposals at their meetings in April.