All levels of student-athletes ignored by the NCAA

Athletic scholarships and the impact they make in young athletes’ lives

One of the most hot-button issues in all of collegiate sports right now is whether or not college athletes should be compensated for their efforts. This conversation usually hones in on top-notch Division I male collegiate athletes. What often gets overlooked are the Division III athletes who still devote their time and efforts to represent their respective schools, and get absolutely no athletic scholarships for their talents.

First, I would like to say that I currently play Division III soccer, and I love everything about it. My teammates, my coaches and the entire athletic department staff treat not only myself, but my entire team with nothing but respect. My argument has nothing against any specific school or university, but against the NCAA and their decision not to allow athletic scholarships at every level of play.

Everyone comes from a different financial background, which gives some fortunate young, college-bound individuals a little bit of breathing room when choosing their location for higher education. But for those who are less auspicious, the cost of attendance to a college or university is a serious dilemma. Unfortunately, people are too often steered away from their school of choice because the cost of attendance is just not affordable in their given situation.

All schools have need-based grants, academic scholarships and ample opportunities for on-campus employment that help students in their efforts to cover the cost of college, but for some that is just not enough.

Each individual is gifted in their own unique way, whether athletically, academically, etc. For many, their academic abilities help bolster their way into the college ranks, getting a plethora of academic scholarships that allow them to expand their college searches. They don’t need to settle on a less expensive school, because at any given rank, Division I, II or III, academic scholarships are offered, and there is often plenty to go around.

Athletes at the Division I and II levels, for the most part, find themselves in very good financial positions, because there are various financial aid options. Division I athletes are incredibly fortunate to have the opportunities to obtain athletic and academic scholarships, in addition to need-based grants. If the coach wants them badly enough, and they are talented enough to make an impact athletically, their tuition will most likely get covered, at least partially.

Unfortunately, people are too often steered away from their school of choice because the cost of attendance is just not affordable in their given situation.

— Taylor Renk, Class of 2020

The same goes for Division II athletes. Although schools are bound by NCAA rules to give out equivalency scholarships, which means most scholarships distributed are partial, it is possible to obtain a full scholarship when academic scholarships are added into the equation.

Division I and II athletes are very fortunate. These athletes come from diverse financial backgrounds, uniquely placing them at perspective schools for one reason or another. Whether they went to the school that offered them the best financial aid package or not, they were given the opportunities to explore those options.

An issue arises when Division III athletes are pinned into a financial corner, and often swayed away from their school of choice because of a financial situation. This is exactly why there should be opportunities for athletes at all levels, not just Division I or II, to obtain athletic scholarships.

Critics of this idea will argue that if you so badly need athletic scholarships to boost your ability to afford college, then work harder, study harder and play Division I or II sports. There are so many issues with that statement.

To begin with, some individuals simply care more about their academics than their athletics, and don’t want their entire college career to be dominated with practices, games and team meetings. They want to get involved with campus activities. They want to excel in the classroom. But they also want to be involved in the sport they love. Many Division III athletes choose to play at the lower level so they can obtain the full college experience, even though they are  skilled enough athletically to excel in the higher ranks.

This is not to downgrade the athletic capabilities of Division I athletes, because they are very skilled and very deserving of the scholarships they obtained, but it is appalling to think high caliber athletes are being, in a way, punished for choosing to play at a lower level.

Athletic abilities aside, some individuals may be in a unique situation where their parents’ income is too high for them to qualify for a need-based grant, yet they are on their own to pay their way through school. Whether it was a parental decision, or the decision of the student, mass amounts of student loan debt is accruing — meanwhile, college first-years have yet to see a salary higher than $15 an hour.

Maybe these students received high enough grades in high school for them to gain entrance into the college or university of their choosing, but they weren’t good enough to get a large number of academic scholarships. They are also extremely athletically gifted, they fit in well with the team and they have a school with the exact major they want. What do they do now? They can’t afford to go to the perfect school for them, and if they decide to attend anyways, they are going to be up to their eyeballs in student debt for 30 years.

It is unfair to these students who are trying to make it on their own. Students have to put themselves through school all the time —it isn’t an uncommon thing to hear about. The least that could be done is to support those who want to devote their time and talent to a Division III team, but don’t have the money to do so. I firmly believe there is room for the NCAA to make a movement to help support these people, because they deserve it.