Heads up, Rutgers athletes: The NCAA now allows you to get paid for playing
In January of this year, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), a non-profit association which regulates athletes of 1,281 institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals, passed legislation that will allow Division I universities to provide student-athletes with a stipend to cover the cost of attendance.
Rutgers’ advent in the Big Ten Conference enabled the University to be a part of this decision.
Basketball and football athletes on full scholarship at Rutgers are now entitled to receive stipends of up to $4,200 in-state and $4,900 out-of-state, according to NJ.com.
Brian Warcup, director of Compliance at Rutgers, said a gap exists between what full scholarships typically cover such as tuition, room and board, books, as well as the actual cost of attending university, which includes miscellaneous expenses such as food, travel and other personal necessities.
“The University determines cost of attendance,” he said. “Any student in the School of Arts and Sciences is going to have the same cost of attendance value as a student-athlete. That number is determined by the University.”
The cost of attendance may vary slightly depending on which school the student is enrolled in, Warcup said. The calculations are ultimately conducted by the financial aid office of each respective academic institution.
The majority of student-athletes do not get paid and many of them come from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds, said Henry Yeh, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and an undergraduate manager of the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
“I would like to see (the stipend) applied to all sports,” he said. “The athletes dedicate a lot of time to training and practices and a lot of them also practice throughout the summer too.”
According to the NCAA official website, the decision to grant the stipends was made possible through a change in the Division I governing procedure. The autonomy group, which is made up of five conferences, including the Big Ten, is now able to put forward and approve certain rules within a specified framework.
“Trying to find some way to get (the cost of attendance) covered, or at least a portion of it, had been in the works for a number of years before this actually came through,” Warcup said. “It’s taken about seven or eight years, but it made its way through the legislative process now.”
Offering the stipend is not mandatory, but many schools are providing it to student athletes in order to attract new talent.
“It’s a conference thing, where the Big Ten schools are all offering the stipend. Since we are a part of the Big Ten, that is where it comes in to play,” he said. “Everybody felt we needed to do more for our student-athletes and (the cost of attendance stipend is) one way we were able to do that.”
Many students support the decision to provide stipends, but have also expressed interest in seeing the University and the Athletics Department be more transparent in their funding processes, said Amanda Okonmah, a School of Engineering senior.
“I can understand why they want to spend so much on the student athletes, because they do work hard (and they) generate a lot of revenue for the school,” she said.
Okonmah said she just wants to know where the money is coming from. She wonders if there will be cutbacks on funding within the academic department or cutbacks elsewhere within the University. Still, she said it is fine as long as it does not negatively impact other people who don’t play sports.
The scholarship is still very new, and Rutgers Athletics is on the lookout for improved and more resourceful ways to fund the cost of attendance stipend, Warcup said.
Receiving stipends as a student athlete is a new concept that everybody is trying to figure out, he said.
“There are student-athlete opportunity funds and student assistance funds that we were able to pay out of in the past," Warcup said. "Now we are not able to pay for out of those funds because the miscellaneous expenses are now covered by the cost of attendance stipend."
Whenever there are increased expenses in one area, Rutgers Athletics can typically shift resources and cut back in certain areas to cover everything they want to fund, Warcup said.
“The goal for every athletic department is to get every team up to their scholarship limits that the NCAA sets,” he said. “Right now we are still working on the fundraising to get the funds available to be able to pay full scholarships to everyone.”