Potential cost of attendance stipends

DREW CARROLL Managing Editor

North Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota have both approved a plan to pay all of their student athletes a cost of attendance stipend.

 On Aug 27, NDSU approved a $3,400 stipend to all full scholarship athletes. All scholarship athletes will receive some proportion of this amount based on what percentage scholarship they are on. The stipends will be funded through private donations.

 USD announced a similar stipend plan in the amount of $4145 per full scholarship athlete. In an article on the official website of the University of South Dakota Athletics Department, it was not disclosed how USD would fund the program.

 South Dakota State University Director of Athletics Justin Sell said that legislation was voted on in January to allow these stipends to be allowed by rule. He said SDSU has been working on a plan to implement a similar program at SDSU, and figuring out how it fits into the athletics department. There are three things that the department must figure out before putting the plan in place on campus. The first is answering the question of if it is a priority to the department, next is finding out how it fits into the budget. Finally the athletics department has to implement the plan in such a way that it balances gender equity, according to Sell.

 Sell says the department can approach the issue in a lot of different ways, but at the end of the day the key is balancing gender equity. One option they would have is to offer different amounts to different people on each team. Another option would be to offer the stipends on a team-by-team basis. Each student has a different cost of attendance based on where he or she is from or what his or her major is. Sell said the easiest way to cover all the department’s bases is to offer the same amount to all student athletes.

“If I’m from Brookings and you’re from Florida your cost of attendance certainly could be different than mine, if your pharmacy a  major and I’m a Liberal Arts major, we may have different cost of attendance so there’s a lot of room to wiggle in there,” Sell said.

 Although there is work being done on a plan to offer the cost of attendance stipend, Sell is unsure if the plan will ever be put into place. The athletics department is currently working to see where the idea of offering the stipend fits into what it currently does. It fits into a much bigger picture of different things, according to Sell.

That bigger picture includes new facilities, the fact that the department has already spent a lot of money on full scholarships, and improving the athletics staff. He said the stipend is just one piece of a big mix. The department can solve this issue in three different ways. The first is to raise enough money to fund the project, the second is to cut the money out from somewhere else in their budget, and finally they can use a combination of both approaches to solve the issue, according to Sell. Its up to the athletics department to decide how they want to approach the issue.

 The stipends won’t take effect until fiscal year 2017, but they play an important part of the recruiting game.

The department is thinking about those timelines. The first occurs in November with men’s and women’s basketball and another occurs in February for some other sports.

 Sell said it is going to be hard to tell exactly how this new program will affect the next round of recruiting.

He compared it to an honors student and how they might make a decision when choosing between three different institutions.

“I would say it’s not different than an honor student that’s looking at three different institutions and what the majors are, what the school has to offer, where they feel most comfortable, where they feel they will get the best instruction, how close is it to home,” Sell said.

 Sell also mentioned there are other factors that play into the recruiting game. Some of these factors are the facilities on campus, how the program has grown, and the opportunity to get a meaningful degree.

“We feel like we’ve got a great package to sell whether you have it [the stipend] or not I think it’s just nice to be able to recognize that especially for some students that have need or that do come from a long way away there are some costs that are involved,” Sell said. “It’s really hard to get a job when you’re a student athlete, it’s hard to make other money. It’s nice to have that flexibility and that’s what we’ve got to sit down and really figure out for ourselves.”

 Aside from other factors than the stipend playing into the recruiting game, Sell says SDSU competes with more than just NDSU and USD for student athletes. Some of the other players in the competition include but are not limited to Northern Iowa, Creighton, and the University of Minnesota.

“We are in the mix with a lot of other schools too. Everyone wants to boil it down to NDSU and USD. They are great rivals and partners. We do all that stuff but they’re not the only ones were competing against frankly for student athletes,” Sell said.

 Sell said that the decisions of NDSU and USD will not affect his department’s decision. He credits the un-wavered work of his department to his confidence in the school and what they do here.

“The things that we are doing it didn’t change at all, the homework we have been doing, where we are at in that process, how we are trying to work through it. you know, we have to figure those things out in the context of our budget, our values and our priorities and then we’ll move forward,” Sell said.