Coordinating athletic aid and other institutional scholarships and grants can be challenging, especially when a college is changing its non-athletic aid policies. At both NAIA and NCAA Div I and II schools where combining athletic and other “regular” aid is the norm when full athletic scholarships are not available to many sports teams, timing and amount of the total package are key elements in the recruitment process.
When an institution is planning to increase either guaranteed merit scholarships or need-based awards, care should be taken in considering how that could simply “add on” to aid packages for student-athletes in a way that may be unintended or unnecessary. If athletic recruitment is going fine and the aid packages already available are sufficient to recruit enough solid caliber team members, there is no need to further “sweeten the deal”.
If the reason for increasing general merit awards and/or need-based grants is to increase the size of the non-athlete class, colleges should use data to understand how athletes will be affected by the new policies. Then consideration should be given to shrinking the athletic aid budget by the amount their non-athletic aid will be increasing. In this example, athletes are held harmless when the new policy is enacted, and the college is targeting the aid to the intended population. Other institutions may address this by placing caps on the amount that a student may receive in total institutional grant/scholarship funds from all sources.
Timing of admissions decisions and financial aid awards is also critical to athletic recruiting. Early student-athlete signing periods or intense early competition from other conference schools can put extreme pressure on student-athletes to make decisions earlier than most college-going students. Some aid offices provide early estimates for recruited student-athletes in order to accommodate coaches. Strong communication and working relationships among these three offices are crucial.
The answers may not always be clear about the approaches for combining athletic and “regular” aid. But at least be sure you are asking the right questions, especially when aid policies are changing.
Image © iStockphoto.
About the author: Enrollment Management Consultant Mary Piccioli joined Scannell & Kurz in April of 2009. She consults on a variety of enrollment management topics, both strategic and operational in nature – from strategic financial aid analysis and strategic enrollment planning to financial and admissions operations reviews. She previously served as Assistant Vice President of Institutional Research and Planning as well as the Dean of Enrollment at St. Bonaventure University, where her responsibilities included undergraduate and graduate admissions, financial aid and institutional research. Prior to that position she served 14 years as the Director of Financial Aid.
Mary holds a B.S. degree in mathematics and an M.B.A, both from St. Bonaventure University.