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NCAA Approves Full Cost-of-Attendance Scholarships for Student-Athletes

In a historic move, student-athlete and faculty representatives from the 65 schools in "Power Five" conferences voted 79-1 Saturday to expand the scope of athletic scholarships for NCAA athletes.

Athletic scholarships currently cover tuition, room and board, books and other academic fees, but leave student-athletes shorthanded by roughly $3,000 annually, according to the National College Players Association. Under the proposal approved Saturday at the NCAA's annual convention, scholarships at all Division I schools for all sports can now also cover "expenses such as academic-related supplies, transportation and other similar items," per a release from the NCAA. "The value of those benefits can differ from campus to campus."

Per Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, student-athletes at the University of Texas will be in line to receive an additional $4,500 to $5,000 per year due to the passage of this proposal. The university's athletic director, Steve Patterson, told Davis: "Assuming calculations are correct, it accurately reflects the cost to go to school at the University of Texas."

No school will be required to offer these full cost-of-attendance scholarships; however, the ones that don't will presumably be at a major disadvantage in terms of recruiting. According to Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star, the lone dissenter was Boston College, which "can't afford [the additional money] for all sports."

That wasn't the only change the Power Five representatives made Saturday in terms of student-athlete scholarships. They also approved a proposal that prohibits schools from reducing or revoking scholarships for athletics reasons. Currently, athletic scholarships must be renewed on a year-by-year basis. All of these changes were approved under the NCAA's new governance structure, which changed this past August.

Before the convention, South Carolina president Harris Pastides, who was recently selected to become chairman of the Division I board of directors, spoke with per USA Today's Steve Berkowitz about what the NCAA hoped to accomplish.

"I think it's an opportunity to, if I may say, re-plant the flag and say that the NCAA is an organization of universities that know what they're doing and can come together even with diverse perspectives and do what's right for student-athletes," said Pastides. "I think other years and in other places, maybe the conventions were more about tinkering with policy and/or changing a rule here or there—and we will do that, as well. But I think this one is about kind of re-planting the flag and saying, 'We're the trusted organization in charge of college athletics.' "

All of the changes approved Saturday will take effect on Aug. 1. However, "scholarship agreements for the 2015-16 school year can be executed prior to that date," per Berkowitz, meaning current high school seniors will be in line to benefit from these changes.

This isn't the first time the NCAA put full cost-of-attendance and multiyear scholarships on the table. Back in October 2011, the Division I board of directors adopted legislation that would have allowed schools to give student-athletes up to an extra $2,000 in athletic aid (assuming it didn't exceed the full cost of attending the school) and multiyear scholarships. However, enough schools signed on to petitions to override both the cost-of-attendance and multiyear scholarship proposals, causing the Division I board of directors to reconsider both and ultimately table each for the time being.

Once the NCAA enacted its new governance structure last August, it didn't take long for the Pac-12 Conference to take advantage of it. In October, the conference adopted a bevy of reforms, including guaranteed four-year scholarships and improved health care.

Now, those scholarship reforms won't just be limited to Pac-12 student-athletes. Though the NCAA isn't forcing any school's hand in terms of offering full cost-of-attendance or guaranteed multiyear scholarships, the rat race to attract top-tier talent will likely necessitate many schools adopting one or both of the reforms approved Saturday.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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