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Which Colleges Are Offering Extra Aid to Student-Athletes Under New NCAA Rules?

In January, student-athlete and faculty representatives from the 65 schools in the NCAA "Power Five" conferences voted to expand the scope of athletic scholarships, allowing schools to cover "expenses such as academic-related supplies, transportation and other similar items" for athletes. A few months later, it's becoming clearer just how much future student-athletes at the Power Five colleges and universities stand to benefit.

Last week, Brad Wolverton and Sandhya Kambhampati of The Chronicle of Higher Education revealed how much each of the 65 Power Five schools plan to offer student-athletes beginning this August. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville led the way with an additional $5,666 per year, while four other schools—Auburn University, the University of Louisville, Mississippi State University, and Texas Tech University—all plan on offering athletes at least $5,000 more than they did before the passage of the new scholarship regulations.

Ten schools, including Pennsylvania State University's main campus, the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma State University at Stillwater and the University of Texas at Austin, each plan on offering an additional $4,000 or more. The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 Conference each have seven schools ranked among the top 20 in terms of the difference between the value of their old athletic scholarships and their new ones.

Not all schools in the Power Five plan on awarding so-called full-cost-of-attendance scholarships to student-athletes beginning this fall, however. Nine schools have tacked on less than an additional $2,000 to their athletic scholarships, including the University of Southern California ($1,580), Syracuse University ($1,632) and Michigan State University ($1,872).

What does this mean for high school student-athletes considering extending their athletic careers into college? For one, certain schools could have a significant recruiting advantage under these new rules. If you're a men's basketball player deciding between the University of Louisville ($5,202) and Michigan State, knowing you'll be receiving an additional $3,300 to cover living expenses could help sway your decision. Likewise, the Chronicle analysis only covered schools within the Power Five conferences; few (if any) schools in mid-major conferences are likely able to offer athletic scholarships equivalent to the top-tier Power Five schools.

In March, David Jones of PennLive.com asked Big Ten associate commissioner for compliance Chad Hawley whether schools willing to offer larger stipends could have a recruiting advantage. Hawley acknowledged it's a real possibility:

That's a great question. Going into this, we're acknowledging that there is a disparity from one place to another. And we would be naïve to say that, at some point, it's not going to make its way into the recruiting conversation.

But where we are policy-wise is less concerned about legislating a mythical level playing field and more concerned that student-athletes just have what they need to go to the institution that they choose.

I don't foresee us getting to a point where we're standardizing [the stipend] figure from one school to the next.

In other words, this may be a case in which the rich athletics programs continue to get richer, as they'll have yet another advantage in luring top-tier recruits to their universities. Could schools with lower athletic stipends ultimately get pressured into offering more financial aid to student-athletes to keep up with the Joneses?

According to the Chronicle, it's a conversation that's already begun at several programs. Athletics officials told the reporters "that they have had conversations with campus admissions and financial-aid officials about raising their institutions' cost-of-attendance figures." However, one official cautioned that athletics programs will have a tough time convincing their schools to raise the cost-of-attendance numbers, given the impact it will have on the larger student body.

"If we're talking about a few-hundred athletes versus 5,000 or 10,000 incoming students, who do you think is going to win that battle?" the official asked the reporters.

With this year's incoming recruiting class being the first to benefit from these new NCAA rules, it's clear that this storyline won't be going away any time soon. If anything, it bears close monitoring over the coming months and years to see whether athletic programs' behavior changes as they grow more acclimated to this new financial landscape.

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