Since the college football season has gotten off to an exciting and unpredictable start, much of the focus on college athletics as been on the 2014 season and the first ever College Football Playoff. Following the August 2014 ruling by a federal judge that struck down NCAA regulations that prohibit players from getting anything other than scholarships and the cost of attendance at schools. The case, known by most as the Ed O’Bannon case, inevitably turns into discussions about paying collegiate athletes a salary beyond their scholarships but some major athletic universities and colleges are making steps towards improving life for current and future student-athletes.
Last week, The University of South Carolina announced that it would guarantee four-year scholarships for athletics in what the NCAA calls “headcount” sports of football, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s tennis and volleyball, where each player receives a full scholarship. Many college football and college basketball fans aren’t aware that the scholarships that their favorite Division I athletic programs give to athletes are “year to year” scholarships that have to be renewed. South Carolina’s decision mirrors that of Big Ten programs, Indiana and Maryland, who both announced guaranteed scholarships for their athletes earlier this year. It wasn’t surprising that Indiana and Maryland made their decisions after all 14 Big Ten presidents previously signed a statement endorsing full-cost of attendance scholarships or guaranteed four-year scholarships.
In addition to guaranteed four-year scholarships, South Carolina’s announcement also included offering the athletes getting four-year scholarships the “full cost of attendance”. The phrase “full cost of attendance” includes the tuition, fees, the cost of room and board, the cost of books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and miscellaneous expenses. It is a big misconception that Division I college athletes finish their college careers with no student debt. Division I athletes have to pay an average of $2,951 per year, or $14,755 over five years, in school-related expenses not covered under his or her athletic aid. While this is significantly less than the average college student debt after their graduation, any student loan debt can be a challenge. The full cost of attendance would help eliminate that for those student athletes eligible.
South Carolina is the first Southeastern Conference school to make this decision about scholarships and it would not be surprising to hear similar decisions made by other schools in the most competitive conference in college football. South Carolina, Indiana, and Maryland are just a few schools getting the ball rolling on significant improvements in the lives of student-athletes.