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by Paulina Mis

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.

Posted Under:

College News , Sports , Student Loans

Tags: Athletics , Sports

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by Agnes Jasinski

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.


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by Agnes Jasinski

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.


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by Agnes Jasinski

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.


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by Agnes Jasinski

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.


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by Agnes Jasinski

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:

  • the kinds of sports pursued by student athletes mattered. Lacrosse players posted the highest graduation rates, with men's baseball and basketball players posting the lowest rates.
  • female athletes fared better overall than the men, reaching nearly 100 percent graduation rates in skiing, and 94 percent in gymnastics.
  • teams, rather than individual athletes, that posted the lowest graduation rates were men's basketball teams.

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.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Congress has a lot going on right now, from the ongoing health care debate to a number of bills looking to improve student lending and credit card practices. But that doesn't mean college football fans shouldn't have their day in government.

Just in time for this season's Bowl Championship Series (BCS), a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday that would change the way the current championship series is run. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who introduced the bill, said college football champions should be crowned through a playoff method rather than a series of bowl games, such as the Fiesta, Sugar, Meineke Car Care and Rose Bowls, among others. The bill, named the College Football Playoffs Act, would ban the promotion of a postseason NCAA Division I football game as a national championship, which Barton called unfair, unless it's the outcome of a playoff.

An article in the Dallas Morning News today details how the subcommittee came to its decision, noting that even President Obama has voiced his displeasure over the lack of playoffs in college football. One legislator said the current process was less about finding the best team out of dozens but about revenue sharing. Another said schools with less fundraising power are less likely to find themselves in a Bowl game. The one dissenting vote, Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, said Congress had better and more important things to do than worry about college football.

In other college football news, a recent study released by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida showed that of the 67 schools surveyed, 57 had graduation success rates of 66 percent or more for white football players participating in bowl games. But 21 colleges (up from 19 in 2008-2009) graduated less than 50 percent of their African American football athletes; 35 colleges (up from 29 in 2008-2009) had graduation success rates for African American football athletes that were at least 20 percent lower than their rates for white football athletes. What's it all mean? Racial gaps remain between white and African American football student-athletes despite any progress with overall graduation rates. As the findings only looked at schools appearing in bowl games this year, it would be interesting to see what kind of data exists across the board.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A recent analysis by the Associated Press (AP) shows that student-athletes are 10 times more likely than non-athletes to gain admission to their intended colleges and universities through a "special admissions" process. The special admissions refer to allowing students to attend a school on criteria outside of what is typically judged by admissions officials, such as grades and standardized test scores. Put more simply, if you're a stellar athlete with grades that aren't so stellar, you're more likely to gain admittance to an institution of higher education than your less athletic peers.

The analysis identified more than 25 schools, including Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Alabama, where admissions requirements were bent significantly in favor of athletes. According to the AP, at the University of Alabama, 19 football players got in as part of a special admissions program from 2004 to 2006, the most recent years available in admissions data submitted to the NCAA by most of the 120 schools in college football's top tier. The AP got the information using open record laws. Ten schools did not respond to the AP's request, and 18 other schools, including the University of Notre Dame and the University of Southern California, declined to release their admissions data.

Coaches contacted for the AP story justified the special admissions on the basis that other students with special talents - musicians, for example, or gifted dancers - are also judged based on those talents. "Some people have ability and they have work ethic and really never get an opportunity," the University of Alabama's coach Nick Saban said in the article.

So do you buy it? The AP article suggests there isn't anything inherently wrong with special admissions, until it leads to student-athletes being admitted to schools they aren't prepared to attend. Should NCAA admissions criteria be more lax then? Student-athletes participating in NCAA sports are expected to not only have a minimum GPA and decent standardized test scores, but to maintain those qualifications while on a team. Those admitted for their special skills may not be ready for the rigors involved in maintaining a certain academic standard, or more generally, keeping to a rigorous academic schedule. What do you think? Should certain groups of students be offered "special admissions," or should standards remain the same across the board?


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by Agnes Jasinski

Sports scholarships are not only available to athletes from their respective colleges. A number of professional organizations and private groups offer generous awards to student athletes looking for some help to meet their college costs. This week’s Scholarship of the Week targets student bowlers already in college who are able to maintain good grades while competing in the sport on the amateur level.

The Billy Welu Scholarship from the Professional Bowler Association awards student bowlers with $1,000 scholarships. Applicants must not only be decent bowlers, but good students, as well, and meet GPA requirements associated with the award. Welu, for whom the award is named, was a charter member and Hall of Famer in the PBA who was a familiar voice in the sport as an analyst during Pro Bowlers Tour telecasts. If you’re a college student who competes in a different sport, though, make sure you check out some of our examples of sports scholarships and look beyond your college for award funding, as there are hundreds of awards out there that target student athletes.

Prize:

$1,000

Eligibility:

To be eligible, candidates must be amateur bowlers who are currently in college (preceding the application deadline) and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA.

Deadline:

May 31, 2010

Required Material:

Those interested in the scholarship must fill out applications available on the PBA’s website. Applications will ask student bowlers to detail their experience in the sport, and write a 500-word essay on how the award will positively affect their bowling, academic, and personal goals. Applicants must also send a reference letter and transcript along with their completed applications.

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.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Gone fishin’ this weekend? That hobby could net you more than a delicious bass. You could be eligible for some scholarship money, as well.

An article in The New York Times this week took a look at two college freshman from Tennessee attending Bethel University who both received athletic scholarships for their talents in competitive bass fishing. According to the article, they were the first students in the country to receive award money for the sport, with another teammate, a female this time, joining them in the scholarship pool this week.

Administrators at the college said they wanted to introduce a scholarship for the sport based on the interest in bass fishing across the country—there are about 220 college bass-fishing clubs in the United States—and the potential to use that surge as a recruiting tool for Bethel. According to the article, administrators had to first recognize bass fishing as an official sport at the college, and then set aside the budget and personnel to lead the program. The awards given range from $1,000 to $4,000, and require that students be not only good at bass-fishing, but successful in their academic lives as well.

Bass fishing’s growth in popularity has led to a growth in college clubs devoted to the sport, along with recognition from state groups. The Illinois High School Athletic Association recognized the sport last year, with 225 schools currently competing in various tournaments. The University of Florida’s team has done so well that they’ve won thousands of dollars to keep the club afloat; the Florida team also passed $50,000 on to the university, which will be used for a scholarship fund for low-income students. If you're not all that interested in fishing but excel in another sport, the point of this story is that there's probably sports scholarship money out there for you.

In others sports news, budget concerns on the community college level have led a number of the two-year institutions to cut back on their athletic offerings. A recent article in Inside Higher Ed focuses on the situation in Mississippi, where the governor has suggested that the state’s community colleges should either shut down sports programs completely or target certain sports for elimination to improve the budget picture there. Three schools have already taken his advice, although the most expensive sports to offer, like football, have remained. According to the article, Mississippi is a football state, and eliminating even junior college football would affect enrollment at the schools. Currently, the NJCAA has 511 member institutions.


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