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DII Presidents Council OKs financial aid concepts

Council also approves long-range budget, including projections through 2023-24

Three legislative concepts that would change Division II financial aid rules have received more support, gaining affirmative votes this week from the division’s top governing body.

The Division II Presidents Council approved the financial aid concepts Thursday at its meeting in Indianapolis, advancing the potential changes closer to a membership vote. The council will have another opportunity to review them as legislative proposals in August before they are ready for a vote in January at the 2017 NCAA Convention.

The three changes being considered are to count only athletics aid toward individual and team equivalency limits; eliminate term-by-term financial aid awards; and permit increases in athletically related financial aid at any time for any reason.

The Division II Legislation Committee developed the concepts after a three-year review of the division’s financial aid landscape. Committee members believe the changes could allow student-athletes to receive more funding for their college education and enable schools to spread the same amount of athletics aid among more student-athletes, which aligns with Division II’s partial-scholarship model. Additionally, the changes are intended to clear up confusion surrounding the current financial aid rules, which has caused some schools to apply the legislation incorrectly.

Due to the complexities of financial aid and the vast differences in how it’s distributed from school to school, the concepts have led to many in-depth discussions at all levels of Division II governance. Last week, the Division II Management Council voted in support of the concepts. This week, the presidents gave quick approval to two of the three concepts: to eliminate term-by-term financial aid awards and allow for greater flexibility around increases in athletically related aid. But they spent more time deliberating on potential impacts of the other, which would exempt nonathletics institutional aid, such as academic or need-based aid, from counting toward each sport’s equivalency limits.

After giving their initial support to all three concepts this week, the presidents will look to continue the conversation back on campus.

“These are very complex topics,” said Steve Scott, president of Pittsburg State University and Presidents Council chair. “I would encourage people to have a very deep discussion with athletics directors, compliance officers and FARs, and talk about: What is best for our student-athletes? How does this impact our compliance efforts and our financial assistance efforts? What are the benefits, and what would we lose, if anything?”

Long-range budget

The Presidents Council also approved a new long-range budget for Division II that includes projections through 2023-24. In January, the council approved a change in the way Division II calculates its projected revenue that results in less of a surplus at each year’s end and more growth in the base budget. As a result, the new budget includes an additional $2.5 million in the base budget that will be spent on new and existing initiatives. The council approved allocating $1.5 million of those funds to championships initiatives, with a focus on ground transportation reimbursement for team and individual sports, officials’ salary increases and other operational needs. The other $1 million will support future initiatives related to health and safety, diversity and inclusion, and academic support.

Other actions

Additionally, the Presidents Council:

  • Approved in concept a proposal that would permit Division II college athletes in individual sports to accept prize money based on place finish or performance in an open athletics event – up to the student’s actual and necessary expenses associated with competition – under certain circumstances after their initial full-time college enrollment. The competition must occur outside the school’s declared playing season during its official summer vacation period. The concept will be drafted in legislative form and return to the council for another review in August.
  • Approved three proposals in legislative form regarding hardship waivers and season-of-competition-while-eligible waivers; student-athlete donations for outside competition; and travel during the nonchampionship segment. Division II members will vote on these proposals in January at the Convention.
  • Appointed Elwood Robinson, chancellor of Winston-Salem State University, and John Denning, president of Stonehill College, to the Presidents Council.
  • Ratified the appointment of Laura Liesman, athletics director at Georgian Court University, to the Management Council.