The new school year brought one of the most significant changes to college athletics financial aid that the NCAA has seen in decades: Schools in the five autonomy conferences, and in other conferences that have adopted it, can now provide student-athletes with financial aid that exceeds the cost of a basic scholarship, up to the federally defined full cost of attendance.
Such a seismic change has naturally raised questions as schools work to both implement the new benefits and understand how they intersect with other forms of aid. As that implementation progresses, here are five things to know about cost of attendance.
1. Cost-of-attendance funds can’t be withheld or revoked by coaches. Those funds aren’t extras given to college athletes in addition to their scholarships; they’re actually part of their scholarship. The rule allowing schools to provide cost of attendance for college athletes changed the definition of a full scholarship. So when an athletics department provides cost of attendance to a college athlete, it cannot be reduced or revoked without first providing students the opportunity for an appeal and a hearing before people outside athletics.
2. Student-athletes can receive a Pell Grant in addition to their full scholarship to help give them additional assistance. NCAA rules allow college athletes who qualify for a Pell Grant to either receive the cost of attendance or the value of a full scholarship plus the Pell Grant, whichever is greater. It provides options to schools as they determine a student’s financial aid. Schools simply must follow any applicable federal, state and school requirements.
3. Schools can help their walk-ons with expenses in ways similar to cost of attendance without counting against the team limits on scholarships by using the Student Assistance Fund. As with cost of attendance, schools are permitted to use the fund to cover walk-on athletes’ additional expenses related to attendance, beyond tuition and fees, room and board and required course-related books.
4. Schools can still help their student-athletes with travel and other needs with money from the Student Assistance Fund in addition to what they provide for cost of attendance. However, use of that fund could affect the student’s financial aid, so schools are encouraged to talk to their financial aid office to determine whether a student-athlete can receive that assistance, and how it might affect their financial aid.
5. Cost of attendance can be adjusted for unique individual needs. A school’s financial aid office uses federal guidelines to calculate cost-of-attendance figures, and that number is generally applicable to all students on a campus. However, a school can adjust it for individual students based on their unique needs. Any changes must be documented, be in line with a school’s policies and procedures for all students and be offered equitably to all students with similar circumstances.