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Former student-athletes returning to limited-resource colleges can apply for NCAA funds

This fall, the first students receiving educational dollars from the NCAA Division I Former Student-Athlete Degree Achievement Program will begin classes to reach a goal they didn’t achieve the first time around: a college degree.

The program, established by the Division I Board of Directors in August 2018 and recommended by the Commission on College Basketball, helps limited-resource schools pay for the new requirement to fund degree completion for former men’s and women’s basketball players. Effective Aug. 1, all Division I schools must pay for tuition, fees and books for returning students who competed in men’s or women’s basketball and meet other specified criteria.

Any school defined as a limited-resource school within the past five years is eligible for funding from the program.

The deadline for funding for the fall 2019 semester was June 3, but the application window opens Aug. 31 for the spring and summer 2020 terms, and that deadline is Oct. 15. Schools must nominate former student-athletes for the fund, and nominees must complete the application by the deadline. Students and schools will be notified of funding decisions by Aug. 1 for the fall semester and by Dec. 1 for spring and summer.

Norfolk State was the first limited-resource school to nominate a former men’s basketball player to receive funding. Carray Banks, faculty athletics representative at Norfolk State, said the fund is a great resource.

“Many (former student-athletes) are coming from communities and homes where this assistance is needed, and the resources available at the school level don’t allow us to fully cover a student’s decision to come back,” Banks said. “This additional help is a game-changer for young people who left the institution and have only a small number of credits to complete.”

Alisha Tucker, associate athletics director for student services at Norfolk State, said the nominated student found her through social media and a shared connection. She had intended to nominate him for the NCAA’s degree completion program for all sports, but she saw the new fund as an opportunity both for him to complete his education and for Norfolk State to feel out the program.

“It’s great to be able to tell a former basketball athlete that, yes, we do have a way available to help cover costs,” she says. “Ultimately, getting these former students back helps the university’s graduation numbers, as well as the athletics department. Additionally, we can use these funds as a tool to encourage these athletes who might want to test professional waters to do so, knowing they will have a way to cover degree completion costs when they get ready to come back to finish.”

When the Commission on College Basketball recommended the NCAA and its member schools help former student-athletes complete their degrees, those who had turned professional and not been as successful as they had hoped were top-of-mind, but students who left for other reasons can benefit from the program, too.

Norfolk State already recognized a need to provide flexibility for returning students. Created by former President Marie McDemmond, the university’s Reclamation program provides special scheduling and other resources to help students return. But until the NCAA’s program for student-athletes, funding was a challenge.

“As a school with limitations on our resources, you have to have a good investment in the system to help them reach their goals,” Banks said. “They are juggling social concerns, personal concerns. Sometimes they are working and have dependents. This allows us to be in alignment with our overall mission.”

Banks noted that historically black colleges and universities make it part of their mission to challenge young people who might need additional financial or sociological resources and don’t shy away from helping students in need.

Both Banks and Tucker think the program will become more popular as time goes by, especially if the Division I Committee on Academics, which oversees the program, commits to evaluating it and making changes as needed. The committee plans to review the program regularly to ensure it is meeting expectations.

Program Specifics

Effective Aug. 1, all Division I schools must pay for tuition, fees and books for returning students who competed in men’s or women’s basketball and meet other specified criteria. Find the NCAA’s online toolkit, which assists schools in creating degree completion programs or modifying existing programs to meet the new requirements.

For schools defined as limited-resource schools within the past five years, former student-athletes also can access funding through the Former Student-Athlete Degree Achievement Program.

Next application period for funding:

  • For spring/summer 2020: Aug. 31–Oct. 15, 2019.

Applications can be accessed through Program Hub:

  • Schools must nominate eligible former student-athletes.
  • Former student-athletes must submit completed applications by the published deadline.

Former student-athletes must have:

  • Participated in men’s or women’s basketball.
  • Received athletics aid.
  • Previously enrolled for at least two years.
  • Met NCAA progress-toward-degree requirements before leaving campus.
  • Not attended another institution full time since departure.
  • Met the institution’s readmission and financial aid requirements.
  • Departed the institution within 10 years.
  • Exhausted other degree completion funding options.
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