Q&A: COST OF ATTENDANCE

Division I college athletes now can receive athletics scholarships that provide funds to help pay the full costs of attending college, such as travel and other expenses. The 65 schools in the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences approved the rule in January, and since then it has been adopted by other Division I schools and conferences. 

The change to scholarships allows schools to provide more dollars for college athletes for elements of attending college that are formally defined by federal guidelines. Because of this new change and its intersection with federal financial aid policies, many questions arose. 

Here are some answers:

Q: Do all college athletes receive the same amount of money?

No. Subject to federal guidelines, financial aid officers at each school determine the cost of attendance. Additionally, based on each school’s policies, a student’s cost of attendance can be adjusted based on his or her individual circumstances such as transportation, childcare needs and unusual medical expenses.

Q: Are there guidelines on how cost of attendance should be spent?

The additional funds are intended to cover the real costs of attending college not covered by the previous definition of a full scholarship, which included tuition, room and board, required fees and books.

Q: Who manages the distribution of the money to the athletes?

Each school distributes the money according to its individual financial aid policies.

Q: When can a school distribute the cost-of-attendance funds – at the beginning, end or throughout the term?

Distribution of financial aid will continue to be done according to school policies and procedures. 

Q: Can a coach withhold or revoke cost of attendance separately from a scholarship?

No. The rule allowing schools to provide cost of attendance for college athletes changed the definition of a full scholarship. When an athletics department provides cost of attendance to college athletes, it is considered financial aid. And an athletics department cannot reduce or revoke a scholarship without providing the opportunity for an appeal and a hearing with people outside athletics.

Q: May a student-athlete receive a Pell Grant in addition to a full athletics scholarship, which may include an amount designated for the cost of attendance?

NCAA rules allow college athletes who receive a Pell Grant to receive the cost of attendance or the value of a full scholarship plus the Pell Grant, whichever is greater. Each school must ensure that it also follows applicable federal, state and school requirements.

Q: May a student-athlete's cost of attendance be adjusted based on individual needs?

A school must calculate the cost of attendance for student-athletes using the same policies and procedures it follows for the general student body.

Q: Does a full athletics scholarship, including cost of attendance, cover both required and recommended textbooks for the college athlete’s classes?

Yes.