The season is over, eligibility has run out, tuition costs have gone up, and there are six credits standing in the way of you getting your degree.
What do you do?
This is the situation facing many student-athletes in the NCAA’s member schools. Once a student-athlete’s eligibility runs out, it seems they are left with few options to help finance the completion of their degrees.
But according to the student-athlete handbook, the NCAA may provide aid in cases like this.
Established in 1989 with revenue generated from the NCAA’s first television contract with CBS, the NCAA Degree Completion Award Program provides aid to NCAA student-athletes who have exhausted their eligibility, but have not yet finished their degree.
Student-athletes are obligated to grueling practice, travel and game schedules on top of their academic requirements in order to keep their scholarships, and many can only take the minimum number of credits. Because of this, they might not have enough credits to fulfill their degree requirements in four years, and in some cases eligibility runs out before they complete their coursework.
Still, the program – designed to raise graduation rates, help student-athletes complete degrees, and boost the university’s Academic Progress Rate scores – is not without a catch.
According to Leo Munson, committee chairman of the Degree Completion Award Program, in a 2004 interview with the NCAA news, the budget for this program will remain static until the 2006 fiscal year.
In that time, tuition is steadily increasing, creating a demand that the budget cannot supply.
“The program hasn’t received any recent increases in funding, and with rising tuition costs and an increase in applications, the program’s percentage of applicants who receive awards has fallen,” said Munson in the interview.
The number of student-athletes receiving awards has fallen from 50 percentof all athletes in the first years of the program to a mere 35 percent today. Meanwhile, tuition costs and the number of student-athletes in need of a fifth year of financial assistance has increased.
The cost of attending Temple, including tuition, room and board, and fees, has increased by roughly $1,000 since last year.
When asked why he thinks the NCAA hasn’t taken another look into the budget for the degree completion program, Temple’s compliance coordinator Andrew Cardamone said, “[the NCAA] could be assuming that athletic departments themselves are expanding budgets.”
Assumptions don’t pay tuition.
In 2004, the NCAA made $471 million in total operating revenue and handed out $6.3 million to member schools for scholarships. Somewhere in the division of revenue, the ball was dropped, leaving student-athletes to pick up the slack.
It is beneficial for the NCAA and all member institutions to provide every available avenue to graduation to its student-athletes. Graduation looks good for the university, the conference, and NCAA athletics as a whole, Cardamone said.
But the program’s benefits have yet to persuade the governing body to increase the program’s budget.
“Intercollegiate athletics, as a component of the university, is failing at its most basic mission – educating student-athletes,” NCAA president Myles Brand wrote in his Jan. 8 State of the Association address.
That is obvious. And intercollegiate athletics will continue to fail in this mission until programs like the Degree Completion Award receive more funding to help more student-athletes.
Danielle K. Milner can be reached at email@example.com.