Reactions To Total Cost Of Attendance

Total Cost of Attendance has been promoted by advocates, analyzed by academicians, and administered by federal agencies. We sought responses from all three factions to elaborate and to clarify the subject matter. The financial windfall from television contracts and mass marketing by athletics departments means student-athletes will receive a stipend for the 2015-16 academic year and beyond.

Out-of-state Alabama athletes will receive $5,386 per year above their scholarships (which include tuition, room, board, books, fees), while in-state athletes will receive $4,172. The University is at the high end of total cost of attendance, as reported in previous articles.

This is the fourth part in a series looking at the COA issue.

Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, reigns as the premiere independent advocate for student-athletes. He weighed in on the Cost of Attendance issue stating, "It is important to understand that NCAA is not allowing stipends because it had a change of heart. NCAA sports is responding to the tremendous pressure that players who are standing up for justice by signing union cards, filing lawsuits, and questioning why the NCAA has prevented colleges from fully funding players' educational expenses. As players stand up, injustice falls down. While these policy changes are a step in the right direction, they can be rolled back at any time. We saw this a couple years ago with a short-lived $2,000 stipend. Players need legal guarantees like those that can be secured in a collective bargaining agreement and court rulings.”

Huma, a former UCLA linebacker, added, “Whether or not this could be a slight recruiting advantage should be a non-issue when you realize the significant recruiting advantages that exist for schools that can afford the best coaches, facilities, or have the best academics or weather. Any tweaks in the name of false competitive equity should only provide players additional financial support, not reduce it."

Ellen J. Staurowsky, Ed. D., Drexel University professor in the Department of Sports Management, has conducted extensive research over the course of her career on the issue of Cost of Attendance. She addressed the recent comments made by the football coaches at the 2015 SEC Media Days. “It does occur to me that the observation on part of coaches that athletes and/or their parents are not asking about cost of attendance may be the best argument for why college football players need a players' association. Their silence on the matter should not be construed as a lack of interest about their compensation but a reflection of the informational vacuum players are often in when they are trying to make sense of the college football recruiting process.”

Gigi Jones, Ph.D., Education Research Scientist, Administrative Data Division – Post Secondary Branch, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, answered a series of questions posed by concerning Cost of Attendance.

1. What is the deadline date to submit COA figures to the Department of Education?

There are 12 survey components that make up the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) data collection. For the 2015-16 collection years, IPEDS institutions must submit their COA data to the Institutional Characteristics survey component from 9/2/15 to 10/14/15. For those institutions that have some system-level coordination (e.g., Alabama Community College System, which oversees multiple institutions within its system), we provide a week extension and their deadline to submit their COA data is 10/28/15.

2. Can you change the figures once they are submitted to the Department of Education?

Yes, changes can be made to the Student Financial Aid survey component, which is open from 12/9/15 to 2/24/16.

3. Can another institution challenge your numbers?

This seems like a two part question. First part, can an institution submit a challenge and second is it our (U.S. Department of Education) numbers? Technically, these are not our numbers. The U.S. Department of Education collects institutions’ data. These data are submitted by the reporting institutions attesting to the Federal government that these data are true, accurate, and complete. To my knowledge, institutions have not come forth to IPEDS and challenged the numbers that we’ve received from other IPEDS institutions. However, I cannot confirm that peer institutions may take it upon themselves and directly contact the institution in question themselves.

4. Can the Federal Agency – U.S. Department of Education (ED) - challenge the numbers?

The IPEDS collection system has a series of sophisticated built-in edit checks to ensure that the data submitted is true, accurate, and complete. These edits are based on prior information submitted, information submitted to other IPEDS survey components, and general statistical ranges that seem feasible for a particular institution type. Finally, institutions cannot submit their data until all edit checks have been cleared. After the institution submits their data, IPEDS completes an extensive six-month, first-round of quality control review of the data (note that there are two more additional rounds of review which is discussed in detailed question 7). We will follow up with each institution that submitted data to what looks to be spurious. So before the data is made public, NCES aims to provide a high quality of data before it is made public; thus, we do not publicly challenge the numbers as you infer in your question.

5. Have you been contacted by any athletics departments from around the country interested in learning more about COA?

To the best of my knowledge, we have not been contacted recently.

6. Can COA totals be more for an out-of-state student?

Yes for public institutions. As you know, IPEDS calculates COA as 1) tuition and fees, 2) room and board, 3) books and supplies, and 4) other expenses. Because tuition and fees are reported to IPEDS by residency levels, institutions can submit COA data for in-district, in-state, and out-of-state students. Tuition and fees are often higher for out-of-state residents than in-district/in-state residents.

7. Can you give me a timeline for the entire process to compute and accept the figure from an institution?

Please see this website ( that explains our data release, which occurs in three phases: preliminary, provisional, and final. Generally, to get the data in its final stage – that is no changes can be made and our quality checks have been satisfied – it takes about 2 years from when the data has been submitted to NCES.

8. Please add any other pertinent information to this list.

a) One important point that has not been mentioned: COA data is for full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students. This is a particular student group that would be identified as a traditional-age/college-going student.

b) I recommend that you speak with other experts on COA in this particular area – financial aid offices and athletic offices.

c) I would also emphasize how difficult it is for institutions to submit erroneous data to IPEDS. We try our best to reach out to institutions to help them provide accurate information to the Federal Government.

9. Would you be able to give the exact specific factors or guidelines allowed to compute the COA? Many people are mystified by the variation in COA among similar type institutions. Does an institution have to present an itemized list for the entire COA to the Department of Education?

For IPEDS, we ask institutions to report each costs separately in order to calculate an IPEDS COA. Again, we have institutions provide the tuition and required fees, books and supplies, room and board (which is weight based on the number of students who live on-campus, off-campus with family, and off-campus not with family), and other expenses. IPEDS will then sum each of these elements to calculate COA.

To answer your second question, I believe you should speak with a financial aid officer to give you more insight why COA can vary among institutions. Each institution has its philosophy of how to best meet a student’s need. Other than speaking with a financial aid office, you can also turn to the federal guidelines on COA, which is stipulated in the Higher Education Act (HEA). The Department’s Federal Student Aid office provides guidance stated in HEA through it Financial Aid Handbook (

10. Can an individual request to see the COA submitted by an institution? If so, would the DOE provide the information or the institution?

All IPEDS data are available to the public through IPEDS Data Center ( I recommend reviewing the PDF manual found at the top right hand corner to help you navigate through the Data Center. Remember that the data are released in three forms – preliminary, provisional, and final. So you have a choice of which level of data you want to use. From my experience, most data users will use the final data noting that the data is about 2 years older.

Total Cost of Attendance legislation adopted by the Power-Five Conferences – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference is a seminal moment for student-athletes. Evolution of the additional monies and benefits offered in the future will be a function of external pressure and internal management of the issue.

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