AState Taking Big Financial Leap

In the Fall of 2015, AState athletics will undertake the largest single season increase in the athletic operating budget in school history. There have been larger short-term increases to build facilities, but never has the operating budget taken the single season jump that is coming.

Arkansas State will fully implement the optional full-cost of attendance legislation that has been adopted by the NCAA’s autonomy group.

Unlike the stipend legislation that was proposed and then defeated by FCS and non-football schools, the stipend under the new legislation is not capped at $2000, the amount is calculated by using Federal financial aid rules that aren’t necessarily clear and easy to understand and can produce widely different results between schools.

The calculation produces a rather high number for Arkansas State. The general number for AState will be $4533 per year.

AState will implement full cost in all sports and if all available scholarships are awarded AState will spend an additional $920,000 a year.

The number for AState will be among the highest in the country. Looking at various (and varied) reports on estimated and reported full cost numbers, AState will almost certainly be in the top 20 of all FBS in the amount of supplement paid per student. One site has the amount AState will pay being higher than 11 of the 14 Big Ten teams, another has the AState amount larger than 13 of the Big Ten schools. One list of SEC full cost numbers would put AState ahead of 11 SEC schools.

The difference in dollars are unlikely to persuade a prospect who dreams of playing in the SEC to turn down an SEC offer that includes a lower supplement it could make a difference when a school like Purdue makes a late run on a commit from the south when Purdue is expected to be limited to $2600 less than AState.

Not all Division I schools are expected to offer full cost initially. They will be at a disadvantage to those offering full cost. It is expected that some schools will offer full cost only in men’s and women’s basketball (non-football schools and some FCS), this will create a recruiting disadvantage for them in other sports.

Consider for example baseball. If AState offers a player one-third of a scholarship and UCA or UALR or Murray State offers a half scholarship, chances are we will usually lose that recruiting battle. With AState’s adoption of full cost, that one-third scholarship would also include a stipend of $1511 in many cases making AState’s one-third of a scholarship basically identical to the other schools one-half scholarship offer without stipend. If AState is offering a half scholarship the same as the others, AState’s half scholarship offer will be worth $2266.50 more than a half scholarship.

Full cost of attendance is generally considered as a ploy by the power schools to create separation from poorer schools but the roots really rest in the lawsuit O’Bannon vs. the NCAA. The decision against the NCAA is under appeal but if the ruling is upheld the NCAA will be barred from capping scholarships below the full cost of attendance. Schools will remain free to offer less but the NCAA would be prohibited from requiring that the maximum paid to students be below the full cost level. The initial reason for the $2000 stipend was to address the then pending case.

Full cost is going to be a major game changer. Once recruits are more familiar the process it will be a key question in the recruiting process. Schools unable to afford full cost or unable to afford it all sports will have a recruiting disadvantage that will make being competitive even more difficult.

AState’s scholarship expenses with full cost of attendance will be about 20% of the projected $20 million budget without counting other costs like tutors.

Arkansas State is undertaking a huge investment, but an essential one if the program wants to position as a top G5 program.