The problem with scholarships

Raising the Bar: PART 3 OF 3

Pictured on the ice at Jock Harty, from left to right: Julie McVicar, Shannon Mullins, Claire Meadows, Dupe Oyewumi, Chris Van Dyk, Amanda Digel, Mitch Leger, Rachel Coens and Braden Novakowski are some of the stars of Queen’s second-term athletics.
Pictured on the ice at Jock Harty, from left to right: Julie McVicar, Shannon Mullins, Claire Meadows, Dupe Oyewumi, Chris Van Dyk, Amanda Digel, Mitch Leger, Rachel Coens and Braden Novakowski are some of the stars of Queen’s second-term athletics.

How will athetic financial awards affect athletic performance at Queen’s?

Leslie Dal Cin, Queen’s athletics director, said the key to success is straightforward if not always simple.

“I think that if you want to be the best, you have to go compete against the best.”

Beginning this fall, Queen’ and the 18 other institutions that make up the Ontario University Athletics league (OUA) will take one step toward creating parity across the country by allowing member schools to give out athletics-based financial awards to incoming student-athletes.

Currently, Ontario is the only province that doesn’t allow athletics-based entrance scholarships

Schools will be able to give up to $3,500 to each student for up to 70 per cent of a team’s roster.

There will be two categories of awards. The first is a non-renewable entrance award. Students who get this kind of scholarship will be eligible to apply for Queen’s upper-year athletic awards in their second year. There will also be renewable scholarships contingent on the student maintaining a 70 per cent academic average. If a student fails to meet both academic and performance requirements, he or she will lose the scholarship and won’t be eligible to apply for upper-year awards.

Ontario schools have never offered athletic entrance awards, but Ward Dilse, executive director of the OUA said that, up until this coming September, Ontario universities were allowed to give returning student-athletes with an average of 70 per cent or higher financial awards in their second through fifth years.

In December of 2000, the amount was increased from $1,500 to $2,500, and in January 2005, it was increased again to $3,500.

While the introduction of first-year athletic financial awards is a positive step, Dal Cin said, the problem remains that Queen’s doesn’t have the money to give the full number of awards, much less endow them all.

An award is endowed by setting aside a larger amount of money and paying the scholarship out of the interest earned each year.

The way the department is run isn’t conducive to the sudden increase in yearly spending, she said.

“Basically, we’re kind of not-for-profit.”

Queen’s will be focusing its resources on the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s designated priority sports—basketball, hockey, volleyball, soccer and football—and for the next six years, the funds will come from the department, the University and the teams themselves.

During those first years, Dal Cin said, the athletics department will work to implement revenue-generating programs, such as a marketing unit in charge of running fundraisers, promoting home games and soliciting alumni support, to offset the loss in university dollars.

“In six years, we basically have to have a program that contributes $250,000 dollars.”

She added that number is likely to go up.

Any other varsity team on

campus can offer scholarships to its athletes if they have the resources and as long as it won’t upset the gender balance within the group of sports receiving scholarships. Neither Queen’s nor the department will contribute any money, and they will only be allowed to give non-renewable awards.

Fencing, rowing, track and field, cross-country and men’s rugby will be offering awards this fall without funding from the department.

If Queen’s football team were to give out the maximum number of scholarship to its players—$3,500 to up to 70 per cent—it would cost the team $110,000.

They likely won’t pay out that much this year, but Dal Cin said football team is in a better financial position than most.

“Football has done a very good job of working to prepare for this day,” Dal Cin said.

The team runs a booster club which hosts an annual golf tournament to raise money for the program, and this year, the team sold Kingston Monopoly board games.

But if the team wants to ensure it can give scholarships for more than one year, it needs an endowment of $2 million—more than one third of the athletics department’s total yearly budget.

Pat Sheahan, head coach of the Queen’s football team, said money is the only thing that pouts Queen’s at a disadvantage when competing for top recruits.

“If everything else was even and money was not an issue, Queen’s would probably win out in almost every case.”

National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) rules dictate that Division I women’s hockey teams are allowed to give out 18 full scholarships per year. Pete Russo, athletics director at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., home of the top women’s hockey program in the country, said he chooses not to award the full number. On the men’s side, there’s a cap in Mercyhurst’s conference of 11 scholarships per team.

“In [the league’s] view and in our view, it’s cost containment.”

Most students enrolled at the school, regardless of their extracurricular activities, receive financial aid to subsidize the $30,000 tuition fees.

“It’s an exception for someone to come without financial aid.”

Athletic scholarships can be renewed for up to four years if the student meets Mercyhurst’s minimum academic requirements of C average. He said admissions keeps a close eye on every student who attends on scholarship.

“Some schools do it at the end of every year. We check kids every term.”

Some schools in the U.S. will admit students with impressive athletics credentials even if their grades are not up to the school’s minimum requirement.

Athletes are only eligible to play for four years. Russo said the rule gives student-athletes the incentive to stay on track academically because after four years they can no longer play on the team, and the college stops paying for their education.

Similar to the model used to distribute team funding, the coaches request money from the department depending on how many scholarships they want to offer.

“They have, pretty much, authority over how they spend the school dollars,” Russo said.

Chuck Sullivan, director of communications for the Harvard University athletics department in Boston, Mass., said the school ensures that athletes are given exactly the same treatment as non-athletes.

“Whether they play a sport or don’t play a sport has no bearing on the financial aid application.”

The Ivy League, consisting of eight American institutions, doesn’t allow member schools to give either academic or athletic scholarships.

Liz O’Leary, head coach of the women’s rowing team, said that’s not a policy she wants to see changed. She said academic performance should be the number-one priority of students regardless of their extracurricular activities.

“It’s a great athletic opportunity. … A handful of them will continue to compete after college, but for most, this is part of their college experience.”

Similar to the situation at Mercyhurst, it’s rare for a student to pay the full cost of tuition.

All students fill out a financial aid application form with their application to the school, and neither grades nor athletics plays any part in deciding how much money a student will get.

Drew Love, athletics director at Carleton University said he has been pushing for the introduction of athletics entrance awards because he feels the commitment student-athletes make goes above and beyond that of regular students. Love announced Tuesday he will be stepping fown from his post effective June 1.

While no student will be considered for an offer of admission without meeting the academic requirements of their program, once admitted athletes have access to various perks. For example, athletes register for courses earlier than the rest of the student body.

“The reason for that is to try to minimize the conflict between their class schedule and their practice schedule,” Love said.

He said the athletics department can also request to have a potential student-athletes application moved to the front of the line.

“If a student-athlete comes to us late in the game, we can certainly ask to have their file considered expeditiously.” In addition to the newly added athletics scholarships, Love said Carleton is number one in Canada in academic entrance scholarships.

Any student with an entering average of 80 per cent or higher automatically receives at least a $1,000 renewable scholarship.

Queen’s doesn’t offer entrance scholarships, and incoming students won’t be considered for any merit-based award if their average is less than 90 per cent.

Dal Cin said Queen’s academic standards will give it a minor advantage. According to CIS rules, Academic All-Canadians—students who earn at least an 80 per cent average while competing in a varsity sport—are automatically eligible for a financial award but don’t count toward the 70 per cent of each roster Queen’s is allowed to offer money to.

The large number of academic All-Canadians at Queen’s means the department will be allowed to give out a larger-than-average number of awards.

For the 2005-06 academic year, 109 Queen’s athletes earned academic All-Canadian status.

But Dal Cin said that, although the number of Academic All-Canadians at Queen’s enables the department to give out more scholarships, it doesn’t mean that Queen’s will have the resources to take advantage of the situation.

“That’s looking for a silver lining.”

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