December 12, 2007
Yesterday New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his settlement with student loan consolidation company Student Financial Services Inc. (SFS) over offers of kickbacks to athletic departments. The lender had given money to school athletic departments in exchange for the right to use their official symbols on forms and advertisements. The school contracts allowed for the use of school and team names, colors, mascots and logos, thereby creating the impression that SFS was the official lender of the school. According to the settlement, SFS agreed to break ties with these colleges and universities, most of which were Division 1 NCAA schools.
“Student loan companies incorporate school insignia and colors into advertisements because they know students are more likely to trust a lender if its loan appears to be approved by their college,” stated Cuomo. “We cannot allow lenders to exploit this trust with deceptive, co-branded marketing.”
Under the new code, SFS agreed to end its loan-related contracts with 63 schools, including Georgetown University, Florida State University and the University of Kansas, as well as with five sports marketers, including ESPN Regional Television, Inc. The lender also agreed to tout the importance of informed loan decision making by organizing campaigns to be featured in the schools’ leading newspapers. The lender would no longer be able to pay for student referrals nor could it organize contests with financial prizes for students.
Cuomo’s settlement is part of an ongoing investigation aimed at ridding financial aid offices of illegal and immoral lender marketing tactics. So far, the attorney general has settled with twelve student lenders for such relations and collected $13.7 million in lender money to go to the National Education Fund, a fund dedicated to educating students about their financial aid options.
September 8, 2009
With college football season underway, it's a good time for high school athletes starting their senior years to be making their decisions on whether they'll be pursuing sports on the college level. Athletic scholarships go a long way toward making those decisions easier, and even in a struggling economy, sports programs continue to set aside funding to better their teams. Better yet, even those who aren't the top soccer, baseball or tennis player on the roster are eligible for scholarship opportunities offered by local groups outside of the NCAA awards looking to reward students who balance their schoolwork with athletics.
A recent article in the Chicago Tribune points to several tips for talented athletes in the market for scholarships, including making yourself known to coaches and schools early and often and making sure your grades are where they should be. Most athletic scholarships require a minimum GPA for eligibility, even if you're the star of your basketball team. And even if you do get that coveted sports scholarship, you'll be expected to maintain a decent GPA to be eligible for continued funding and a spot on the team. Student athletes should also keep an open mind about schools they're targeting. Big-name schools are much more competitive, and unless you're one of the top athletes in your field, they may offer much less play time even if you do make the team than smaller colleges outside of Division I. A college search is a good place to start to learn more about colleges offering your sports program.
It isn't easy to be recruited for a full ride at a top university. A strategy of more students recently has been specializing in one sport, or getting involved in sports outside of football, baseball and basketball that get less attention to stand out more in the competitive world of sports scholarships. New sports scholarships in fields like lacrosse, for example, are becoming more common, and with new scholarships, the competition is often much less fierce than with more popular, established award programs.
For those who excel in both sports and athletics, straight academic scholarships may prove to be a good option as well, especially if you're a good essay writer.
September 29, 2009
It's obvious the economy has had an effect on the world of higher education. While there have been reasons to remain optimistic - some schools have created new scholarships to compensate for students' increased needs for aid - many states continue to deal with deep budget cuts, which have had a trickle-down effect on students' financial aid packages. Some have been forced to consider shutting down merit scholarship programs; others have raised tuition.
Schools' athletic programs then aren't immune to the economy's effects. An article today in The Chronicle for Higher Education describes the potential trouble schools could be in if they have recently embarked on big athletic program projects, like new stadiums (University of Minnesota) or extensive remodeling (Oklahoma State). The article compared schools' spending on sports programs to that of homeowners now finding they've purchased properties they can't actually afford. New projects will probably stall until economic projections brighten, and schools may find that it's not so easy justifying pouring money into capital improvements to athletic facilities when those same schools are facing layoffs and budget cuts elsewhere.
Numbers and hard data showing how the economy has affected sports programs has been vague. While schools report anecdotes of slow ticket sales to sports events, others say their endowments remain strong and that their football stadiums are more full than ever before. Perhaps students and alums use sports events as diversions from the economy. Or it's schools with a lot of buzz surrounding their football programs that are doing well this season. Luckily for sports fans, many projects that have been in the pipeline since before the economy began faltering are being paid for through donations and private funding, rather than borrowed money that may be harder to come by and riskier to an administration unsure when things will return to normal.
Or maybe those schools with the big athletic programs are just adding more to their debt. Debt overall has risen at colleges. Over the last four years, the average debt has gone up more than 50 percent, according to rankings of 200 public institutions by Moody's Investors Service. At the same time, revenue at those schools has been down significantly. The Chronicle article suggests funding that has gone to sports facilities has at times been diverted from other campus sites that could use more work, like remodeling old dormitories or improving academic facilities. It can get difficult, though, to criticize spending money to improve programs that bring so much money into a school, especially at schools with high-profile athletic teams. Sports will always be an important piece of many big campuses, and student athletes should still go for athletic scholarships if they have the grades and the talent, since the situation would probably never get so dire that teams would be disbanded.
October 2, 2009
As the city of Chicago begins to adjust to the news that the 2016 Olympic Games will go to Rio de Janeiro, it could be a good time for you athletes to begin evaluating your options for sports scholarships at your intended college next fall. Just remember this: you don't need to be an Olympics-caliber athlete to win athletic scholarships, or even Youth Olympic Games-caliber for that matter. (The first ever Youth Olympic Games will be held in Singapore in 2010 for athletes ages 14-18 competing in 26 summer sports.)
Traditional sports scholarships are very competitive and usually come directly from the college you hope to play for. While those awards will usually be the most generous, unless you're playing at a high enough skill level to be recruited onto a team or have wowed your intended college's coaches with your abilities, it's going to be tough to land a full or even partial sports scholarship. Lucky for you, sports scholarships from outside organizations aren't always all about athletics.
Local leagues and organizations in sports ranging from the high-profile like baseball and golf to the more obscure like fencing and marksmanship offer many awards based on criteria that have nothing to do with that sport. If you enjoy bowling as a hobby, contact your local league. They could have an award for bowling enthusiasts who don't necessarily plan to bowl on the college level but may have stellar academics or an impressive community service record. If you do intend to play your sport in college but on the club or intramural level, your chances of landing a private scholarship could be even better, as sports scholarships will often ask for a commitment to the sport you're being awarded funding for playing or having an interest in, even if that commitment means you continue playing the sport for fun and not for competition.
Check out our examples of athletic scholarships, but don't rule out academic scholarships when applying for funding. If you're a good enough athlete to compete for awards based on athletic skill, you'll need a minimum GPA set by the NCAA to not only get some funding but to play on a college team. For additional information about sports scholarships and awards based on different criteria, try conducting a free college scholarship search to see all of the awards you could be eligible for.
October 5, 2009
Chicago didn't win the Olympics, but something good has come out of the effort. This week's Scholarship of the Week comes from World Sport Chicago, which was created as the lasting legacy of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Bid to support the city's student athletes as they prepare to go to college. As part of the scholarship program, 56 students will be chosen to become World Sport Chicago Scholars and participate in Kaplan ACT Tutoring and a Chicago Scholars mentoring initiative. Of those 56, 16 student athletes will be chosen to receive renewable college scholarships worth up $10,000 annually.
World Sport Chicago was launched in September to help high school student athletes not only pay for college but be more prepared for the transition. The chosen scholars will get ACT prep help for the spring 2010 testing dates. The award is a good example of athletic scholarships that look at more than your abilities in your chosen sport.
Prize: 16 renewable college scholarships worth up to $10,000 annually.
Eligibility: High school juniors who live and study in Chicago and have participated in an Olympic/Paralympic sport for two seasons in the past three years. Athletes of all levels are encouraged to apply; the judges just want to see that you're committed to your sport, on whatever level you may be. Commitment to the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect on the playing field in school and in the community will be considered during the evaluation process. Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or better and be willing to perform the duties of World Sport Chicago scholars, which includes promoting Olympic values in the community.
Deadline: November 30, 2009
Required Material: An online application from World Sport Chicago, which includes three short essays, two recommendations and an unofficial high school transcript. Scholarships must be applied to accredited four-year institutions. Preference may be given to student athletes with high financial need.
Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.
October 28, 2009
Most presidents at colleges across the country believe that they won't be able to sustain the high costs of their athletic programs, according to a survey from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics published earlier this week. The survey polled 95 college presidents whose schools compete in the 119-member Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I-A) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The presidents also admitted they had few ideas on how to fix the problem.
We already know schools' athletic programs haven't been immune to the effects of the economy. Schools that had continued to expand their facilities despite weak economic projections could be in trouble down the line. But college presidents hadn't asked for sweeping reform to schools' athletic programs until now.
An article in the Chronicle for Higher Education this week said presidents felt they had "limited power to control the rising expenses of sports on their own campuses and at the national and conference levels." Making changes to athletic programs is a touchy subject. Administrators could be at risk of losing alumni support if they rock the boat too much. According to the survey, more than 80 percent of college presidents said more transparency is needed when it comes to spending on athletics, especially during an economic crunch that has affected many academic programs. About 85 percent responded that college football and basketball coaches are paid too much, and that those salaries are exceedingly difficult to control.
So if college presidents, the leaders of the schools, feel powerless to change what appears to be an increasingly difficult situation, what can be done about the problem? At a meeting this week that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Knight Commission’s founding, athletics directors and college administrators had competing ideas. Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said it was dangerous to cut costs, especially when athletic programs brought funding in to schools. Dutch Baughman, executive director of the Division IA Athletic Directors Association, said he had already proposed ways to cut costs: less travel and changes to hiring practices.
Perhaps presidents should have more faith in their actions and authority. Many responded that athletic programs have become too political or bureaucratic. Nathan Tublitz, co-chair of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, said presidents were being too "wimpy." It can get difficult, though, to criticize spending money to improve programs that bring so much money into a school, especially at schools with high-profile athletic teams. But what if spending money on sports programs hurts the academic programs at a school? What do you think?
If you're an athlete, don't rule out sports scholarships to pad your financial aid package, because if you're good enough, you could find yourself looking at some generous scholarship money. For more information on athletic scholarships and scholarships based on other criteria, conduct a free scholarship search.
November 3, 2009
College admission practices are often points of contention, especially when tricky issues like race, gender, and socioeconomic class are concerned. Colleges worry about trying to promote diversity and give students a fair chance in their admission practices and other parties worry about practices potentially shortchanging students. Based on some of these concerns, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to investigate allegations of gender bias in admission practices at selective colleges. The concern: in order to preserve male-to-female ratios on campus, colleges are being less selective in admitting male students than in admitting female students.
In recent decades, women have begun to thrive in higher education, making up a significantly larger share of undergraduate students, bachelor's degree recipients, and master's degree students than men. Postsecondary Education Opportunity data shows that currently there are 77 men in college for every 100 women, and 73 male bachelor's degree recipients for every 100 female graduates. While gender gaps still persist within specific fields, including traditionally male-dominated disciplines like engineering and computer science, overall women are coming to college in droves and doing well once they arrive.
This trend shows no sign of reversing and has some worried that men will become increasingly underrepresented in higher education, while simultaneously work opportunities contract in traditionally male-dominated fields that don't require degrees. Schools and other organizations are beginning to address these concerns. For example, a conference panel last month addressed some of the moves being undertaken to encourage more young men to attend college and persist to a degree.
The Commission on Civil Rights inquiry is intended to see if practices are going beyond encouraging young men to enroll and have actually moved into the territory of discriminating against women in admission by admitting a smaller percentage of female applicants and being more selective in admitting women than men. This practice, while possibly unethical at private colleges, would be illegal at state colleges. So far, there hasn't been sufficient evidence to support this theory, with the majority of admission officers recently saying they don't consider gender as an important criterion in college admission, leaving some wondering if the inquiry is entirely necessary. Information subpoenaed from colleges in the Washington, D.C. area should help the commission determine whether reality reflects reporting.
Adding in another level of controversy and drawing a great deal of criticism to the investigation is the strong focus on athletics in the text of the proposal for the investigation. The theory behind it seems to be that Title IX, the federal regulation designed to prevent sex discrimination--most visibly by mandating that men's and women's sports are equally represented in public schools--is preventing men from enrolling in college by limiting their opportunities for athletic involvement. Of all the directions the investigation could take, this certainly seems to be an unusual one, and on the surface it seems to present some problematic and likely inaccurate assumptions about gender. The investigation gets underway this month, so a clearer sense of direction may emerge as time goes on.
November 19, 2009
Students participating in Division I athletics boast higher graduation rates than other student populations, according to a new round of data.
In a report released yesterday from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), nearly 80 percent of freshman student-athletes who started college in 2002 graduated. The same was true of the graduation rate among student-athletes who entered college between 1992-2002. The numbers showed an increase of one percentage point over the last year, and six percentage points since the last time the same kind of study was released eight years ago. The national graduation rate for 2005-2006, when many of those student-athletes surveyed would be graduating, was about 54 percent, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. (That figure includes students who graduate in any amount of time, as only about 36 percent did so in four years.) According to the federal government, however, the graduation rate of all students entering college in 2002-2003 was about 62 percent.
While the numbers could change the next time students are polled by the NCAA - this one took place before the organization instituted more stringent academic requirements for students to participate in college sports - NCAA officials are boasting that this is the result of more of an emphasis on academic achievement among student athletes. And while the federal graduation rate among athletes is different than that of the NCAA's figures - the NCAA accepts transfer students in its numbers - no matter how you skew the numbers, more student athletes are graduating than non-athletes.
So why is this happening? The NCAA credits tougher eligibility standards for freshman. If you can't handle the academic rigor of college, you won't get a place on the team. While other student populations are required to have certain minimum academic achievements to gain acceptance into most colleges, the oversight in sports programs into how a student continues to perform academically is much greater for those athletes than for other students.
The data also showed that:
If you're a student-athlete preparing for the college transition, remember that financial aid awarded by your college isn't the only aid out there. Consider outside athletic scholarships to supplement your financial aid package, especially if your intended school only awards partial scholarships to athletes.
November 20, 2009
Opportunities for physical fitness and athleticism abound on college campuses, as anyone who has had to sit through a sibling's harrowing tales of intramural water polo playoffs can tell you. But should students be required to engage in campus athletics to graduate? Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania, is saying yes, at least for obese students.
Starting in 2006, incoming freshmen at Lincoln University were weighed and measured and told their Body Mass Index, or BMI, score. Students with a BMI over 30, which the World Health Organization designates as obese, were told they'd need to take a one-credit physical fitness course to graduate. Those students are now entering their final year of college, and of those 92 students who were given that requirement, 80 have not yet completed it. True to its word, Lincoln University has sent these 80 students e-mail messages saying that unless they complete the class or "test out" by spring semester (either by "earning" a BMI below 30 or passing a sports course) they will not be allowed to receive degrees they have otherwise earned.
While promoting healthy lifestyles is increasingly becoming a priority for colleges, Lincoln's practice goes much further than other schools'. Recent media attention has raised legal questions, ranging from concerns about privacy (weighing all freshmen then making this potentially sensitive information public, or at least easily guessed, based on who has to take the fitness class) to concerns about discrimination (obese students may have underlying health issues), and the university's legal counsel is looking into whether the policy should be continued. Other concerns are also being voiced, namely related to the effectiveness of using BMI to determine risk for health issues, and the fairness of only making students above a certain BMI take a fitness course.
The class is meant to make students aware of the health risks that have been traditionally associated with obesity, but there's a long-standing contention that BMI is not an accurate measure of obesity or of health risk. Most people have anecdotal experience that easily attests to this—athletes pushing the obesity mark or tiny people subsisting entirely on fast food. Certainly, students of all weights engage in less healthy aspects of the college lifestyle, and could probably benefit from information on healthy eating and exercise. This leaves many people wondering, why the emphasis on BMI? Why not make the course a requirement for everyone, or not make it a requirement for anyone at all? And why make this course a graduation requirement, rather than simply a recommendation?
So what do you think? Should colleges make health education a graduation requirement for students? Is Lincoln University's practice an appropriate form of health intervention?
December 7, 2009
Following a good deal of criticism and complaints from its student population and across the state, faculty at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania voted Friday to make the school's mandatory "Fitness for Life" course optional instead. The school came under fire and received a large amount of unwanted media attention over the last few weeks for their requirement that any student who entered the school in 2006 or later and had a Body Mass Index of 30 or greater would be enrolled in a fitness course to lose weight before graduation.
The course didn't receive much attention until this fall because it was the first time administrators had to warn seniors that they were in danger of not graduating if they did not meet the school's fitness requirement. Eighty students were sent emails that they were required to either complete the one-credit course or show they had lost enough weight to make a dent in their BMI before being allowed to graduate. Critics since questioned whether the special graduation requirement was legal and unfairly singled out a population of students.
In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today, the school's administrators say the requirement will remain in place through the spring semester, and defended the school's initial decision to require a fitness requirement of obese students. Ashley E. Gabb, assistant director of communications at Lincoln University, said in the article that it wasn't the school's intention to have an "adverse effect on students," and that the school remained committed to finding ways to make the student population healthier.
Many schools have programs set up that encourage healthy diets and promoting healthy lifestyles. A number of Massachusetts schools, for example, have been making changes in their dining halls to "sneak" healthy foods past college students. Others also require fitness and physical education requirements. Rollins College, for example, requires three physical education courses of its incoming students, including two terms of elective lifetime recreational activities. (The school offers classes in a wide variety of physical activities, including ballroom dancing, sailing, and weight training.)
A swim requirement is also still popular at many colleges, including Hamilton College, the Washington and Lee University. At many of those schools, students who fail the college's swim test - 10 minutes of continuous swimming, for example, or proof that you can tread water - are required to take a swim class prior to graduation. Most of these schools require some sort of physical education class as part of the general education requirements, so the swim class may count toward that requirement in many cases.
How about your school? What kinds of things is your college doing to make the student population healthier? Do you have PE requirement? Is this even appropriate to do? Let us know what you think.
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