NCAA D1 Council Votes to Allow Stacking of Merit/Need Aid and Athletic Aid

The NCAA Division I Council passed legislation on Wednesday to allow equivalency sports such as swimming and diving to stack need-based aid and/or merit aid with athletic aid with only the athletic aid counting against the scholarship limits for the sport. Division I swimming and diving programs are limited to 14 scholarships for women and 9.9 for men.

The vote followed a proposal by the Student-Athlete Experience Committee that was meant to simplify the financial aid rules. Under the old system, if a student-athlete was receiving athletics aid, academic aid from the institution could also count against their team’s equivalency limits. Academic aid was exempt from counting against equivalency limits, however, if:

  • the athlete ranked in the upper 20 percent of their graduating high school class, achieved at least a 3.5 GPA, or had a combined score of at least 100 on the four sections of the ACT or a score of at least 1140 on the SAT (1210 if the SAT was taken in or after March 2016); or
  • the athlete completed at least one academic year of college and earned a 3.3 GPA or higher.

The student-athlete had to show that being an athlete was not a requirement during the application process for the non-athletic scholarship.

Furthermore, certain need-based financial aid also counted against the team’s limits, such as institutionally-administered government grants, institutional grants or scholarships, and tuition waivers, to name a few.

The new legislation is expected to be particularly helpful for private institutions, whose cost of attendance can top $70,000 per year. In the past, some student-athletes had to choose between need-based / academic aid and an athletic scholarship. Going forward, coaches will be able to add athletic money to a student-athlete’s need-based and/or academic award to make the overall package more attractive.

But public institutions should also benefit from the new rule. Baseball blogger Kendall Rogers uses the example of UT Austin, whose Texas Advance Commitment (TAC), introduced in 2018, guarantees gift aid to Texas residents whose families earn up to $100,000 per year, including a minimum of full tuition for families who earn up to $30,000 per year. Given that coaches in equivalency sports will now be able to offer those families athletic aid on top of the need-based aid guaranteed by TAC, Texas will be able to offer more generous packages to in-state student-athletes.


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3 years ago

can a person receive financial aid even if she is on full ride?

Reply to  monkey00
3 years ago

Good question! I wonder as well…

3 years ago

This would be a positive game-changer for stretching limited scholarship money

Mateo Romero
Reply to  swimgeek
3 years ago

It will only be good for those institutions that can afford even greater discounts for the students. Otherwise they will likely implement institutional restrictions on stacking. If a program isn’t already at their maximum allowed scholarshis, it will be hard to see the schools being ok losing out on even more revenue.

I wish it was a great as it sounds for everyone, but it will really only end up being great for the schools that have plenty of money to begin with. Probably won’t see much real change in all the mid-major programs.

For coaches, it will be easy to make athletic scholarship offers a bit earlier, not having to worry about what the rest of the aid… Read more »

3 years ago

The rich get richer

Working Swim Mom
Reply to  I_Said_It
3 years ago

Actually, this should enable those who can’t afford college without a big scholarship a better shot. It allows need to be taken into account and not count towards the scholarship limits. This could be huge for a number of kids who can’t afford out of state options.

Mateo Romero
Reply to  Working Swim Mom
3 years ago

I think I_Said_It is referring to the rich schools being able to get more top kids with the new money available, not families themselves. Could definitely be huge for low-income families who get need based aid and athletic scholarship, but only if the school can afford to give it all out.

Reply to  Mateo Romero
3 years ago

Rich, and or the traditional powerhouses.

Scholarships do encourage more parity. If a swimmer can get more scholarship money at school A than school B, they might choose school A even if school B wins more championships.

Inclusive Parent
3 years ago

Huge wins for schools like UGA and Tennessee where they offer automatic money to students with high SAT scores, in-state or out-of-state. Could add 25% to any offer for the right kids.

Steve Schaffer
Reply to  Inclusive Parent
3 years ago

This was already possible for high academic achievers. What changed is that students with HS GPAs lower than 3.5 or test scores below the minimums required had to count any academic aid as athletic money. With this new rule it will allow coaches to make their actual athletic money for further.

Reply to  Inclusive Parent
3 years ago

Combining athletic scholarship with financial aid is a huge change. I am less clear how this changes things for academic scholarships – they could already combine them if students met the standards outlined above. What am I missing?

Reply to  Nick
3 years ago

Put your money where the clock tells you to.

Reply to  Inclusive Parent
3 years ago

What are you talking about? Maybe UGA but not Tennessee! This will help Texas, A+M and Florida for sure.

Swimmer gal
3 years ago

When does this go into effect?

Steve Schaffer
Reply to  Swimmer gal
3 years ago

August 1st of this year.

3 years ago

This is huge for student athletes.

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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