New numbers don't exactly add up for USC

Adjusted cost-of-education dollars calculations come up short for Trojans as an exhaustive study by The Chronicle of Higher Education shows.

"About time," USC fans had to be thinking when the NCAA decided to allow the 65 Power Five Conference programs to pay the full cost of education for their student-athletes starting this fall.

"Living in high-cost, high-rent LA, this has to be a step forward for Trojan players," we were all thinking when, not long ago, some players had to leave for the NFL to get enough food when their monthly scholarship checks ran out.

Only Northwestern, with an adjusted full cost of education of $68,095, tops USC's $67,562 number. So how will this work out with athletes now given the difference in dollars from the scholarship cost to the full cost?

We know this thanks to an exhaustive study published this month by The Chronicle of Higher Education that documents all the unreported details of how this might work. For details on all 65 programs, definitely check The Chronicle out.

And it will work great, if you're a student-athlete at Tennessee or Mississippi State or Louisville or Auburn. You know, in those really high-cost places like Starkville, Miss.

According to current calculations that are based on the cost of education, which will change by next fall we guess, Tennessee athletes will get an additional $5,666 per year. At Auburn, the number is $5,586, at Louisville -- $5,202 and at Mississippi State -- $5,126. No, you've got that right. Go to Tennessee and you'll have an extra $500-$600 jangling around in your jeans every month come fall to help with cellphone bills, travel and other expenses.

Louisville Courier-Journal sports columnist Tim Sullivan, after seeing a much lower number for Kentucky, says he'd advise "Lexington merchants to start raising their prices" to help raise the cost of education. And he quotes the UK Cats' Paws publisher Oscar Combs that the new numbers "are a dagger in the heart of UK football."

But what about USC? And all those high costs? Well, when it comes down to the cold hard cash, that $67,562 scholarship is going to be most of it. The difference at USC will be a mere $1,580 -- second from the bottom among the 65 teams. While the UT guys and gals could be pocketing more than $600 a month extra, it'll be more like $175 or so based on a nine-month school calendar for USC athletes, it appears.

And with 15 of the 65 able to offer more than an additional $4,000 now, that looks positively puny. But USC isn't alone. We were first alerted about this from the folks at Kentucky when they heard, although this may change a bit, that they'd be able to offer just an additional $2,284 a year while their top two geographical rivals -- Tennessee and Louisville would be paying out up to $3,400 more than that.

No wonder Boston College was the lone school to vote no in January when the rule change passed 79-1. The Eagles are No. 65 on the list, able to offer just an additional $1,400. Syracuse is third from the bottom at $1,632.

Now the good news here is USC can tell athletes they're getting a scholarship valued at nearly three times one at Tennessee. And since they're all figured separately by non-athletic administrators on each campus, this does not go through athletics at all. And there are no quick fixes. Too many other scholarship and financial aid implications for the student body in general for that to happen.

But as the Chronicle documents, USC will be at the bottom of the Pac-12 barrel. Although not so far out of the mainstream where Utah tops the list with an additional subsidy of $3,574. UCLA's additional $2,595 probably won't start a bidding war in LA either.

And speaking of USC archrivals, Notre Dame doesn't fare all that well either with a cost of education of $64,775 -- translating to an additional $1,950 that's not that much more than USC's. Maybe enough to buy an overcoat, ear muffs and snow shoes.

The Chronicle has an explanation for why "elite private institutions" seem to be hit hardest here: They "sometimes underestimate students’ personal expenses in their published cost of attendance as a way of limiting the sticker shock that can accompany their tuition bills."

Whether that's true for USC, no one is saying right now although we understand the University is working on some sort of statement about all of this.

If there is anything puzzling here, it's how some schools' cost-differentials have seemed to skyrocket in recent years. For example, seven of the Big 12 schools are in the Top 20 for the most additional money.

The idea, of course, was to reflect the real world costs for college athletes who provide the manpower for the wildly expanding value of college TV contracts. No more would they be limited to tuition, fees, room and board and books.

But it may not be that simple and straightforward as it plays out here.

Will there be a bidding war in places? Hard to imagine how there won't be when there are major monthly differences between programs recruiting the same players. Say you're a kid in Corbin, Ky., on I-75 midway between Lexington and Knoxville? And UT just happens to mention it will be worth maybe $400 more a month if the young athlete heads south.

The differences among the Pac-12 programs aren't nearly that much. But according to the Chronicle's chart, they're more than just pocket change.

Pac-12 by school: old cost, new cost, difference.

Arizona State: $21,851/$25,209 . . . $3,358

Oregon State: $23,832/$26,316 . . . $2,484

Stanford: $62,540/$65,165 . . . $2,625

Arizona: $21,900/$25,200 . . . $3,300

California: $28,616/$32,168 . . . $3,552

UCLA: $32,157/$34,752 . . . $2,595

Colorado: $26,268/$28,562 . . . $2,294

Oregon: $22,440/$24,780 . . . $2,340

USC: $65,982/$67,562 . . . $1,580

Utah: $19,448/$23,022 . . . $3,574

Washington: $24,433/$27,112 . . . $2,679

Washington State: $24,634/$28,176 . . . $3,542

Other programs:

Tennessee: $23,710/$29,376 . . . $5,666

Notre Dame: $62,825/$64,775 . . . $1,950

Kentucky: $21,464/$23,748 . . . $2,284

Louisville: $19,142/$24,344 . . .$5,202

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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