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Full Cost of Attendance Scholarships, What Does it Mean at Buffalo?

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The two point conversion is an interesting concept. Use it early in a game, you're a jerk (see. Kiffin, Lane). Everyone loves points, but everyone fears the cost of losing a point more than the benefits of gaining a point. That is, until the end of the game, when you'll do anything to keep the game within reach.

The two point conversion is a lot like the full cost of attendance debate. Made since a long time ago, but never gained traction as the cost to athletic departments seemed greater than the benefit to student athletes. However now as questions over compensation have been heightened, many conferences are looking at the cost of attendance scholarship as a way to keep themselves in the game of preventing student athletes from profiting off their participation in collegiate athletics.

Full cost of attendance scholarships like 2 point conversions are easy for fans to root for, "The ball is at the 3, just drive it in, I'd go for two every time" however, many mid-major fans know how hard it is to get 3-yards, and we fear the upped ante might force our beloved teams out of division 1 football. To help Bull Run in their analysis on this subject, I hope to answer:

What is a full cost of attendance scholarship?

What effect will this have on the athletes?

And how much would it cost a school like UB?

What is a full cost of attendance scholarship?

Cost of Attendance is set by the University Financial Aid Office and is used to calculate the full cost for 9 months of school. It generally includes tuition, fees, room, board, transportation, books, personal expenses and other miscellaneous expenses.

It is meant to capture the general costs of attending school, not the actual, and as such students can often finish 9 months of school without spending up to the budget. Cost of attendance thus acts as a ceiling for financial aid (grants, scholarships, federal loans, private loans and work study), students cannot receive aid in excess of their cost of attendance.  Many students will spend more than their cost of attendance while attending school and many students will spend less. It's less of a guide for how much college will cost, and more of a determination of how much aid a student can receive.

Students with special circumstances can appeal the financial aid office for a higher cost of attendance which normally gives the student eligibility for student loans.

Cost of Attendance at Buffalo

UB Cost of Attendance
Tuition $5,870
Fees $2,556
Room $7,210
Board $5,190
Books $1,164
Personal $1,431
Transportation $1,050
Loan Fees $72
In State Total $24,543
Out of State fee $11,940
Out of State Total $36,483

What effect will this have on the athletes?

To analyze this you have to look at the difference between an athletic scholarship and cost of attendance.

UB Cost of Attendance vs. UB Athletic Scholarship
$5,870 Tuition $5,870
$2,556 Fees $2,556
$7,210 Room $7,210
$5,190 Board $5,190
$1,164 Books $800
$1,431 Personal $0
$1,050 Transportation $0
$72 Loan Fees $0
$24,543 In State Total $21,626
$11,940 Out of State fee $11,940
$36,483 Out of State Total $33,566

An athletic scholarship pays the essentials, tuition, fees, room and board, and they set the value of books at $800*. Student athletes receive no money for personal expenses, or transportation, so it's up to them to have parents with money, personal savings, qualify for a Pell Grant**, or utilize student loans for those expenses. Based on the numbers above, a "middle class"*** student athlete would have to take a loan of $2,553 to pay for personal expenses, transportation and loan fees, which over four years would leave the athlete with $10,212 in debt.

*The NCAA doesn't allow for the full cost of books. That isn't a huge deal as most athletic departments keep used books on hand that they loan to students for free. Many departments also offer free delivery service, because the athletic department is ultimately responsible for book purchase fraud, they will do all the leg work in procuring, delivery books to athletes and then making sure the athletes return the books.

**The Pell Grant pays up to $5,730 for 2014-15 and unlike most aid, is still received even if a student already has enough aid to cover the full cost of attendance.

***The word has no meaning in financial aid, everyone thinks they are middle class. I use middle class to describe someone who does not qualify for Pell Grant, yet does not have the resources to comfortably pay for college out of pocket.

While full cost of attendance would give a student some pocket money, roughly $81 per week over 9 months, the $2,917 difference between cost of attendance and current athletic scholarship seems almost insignificant. However, as student athletes generally do not have time for work, that small pocket money increase might be enough to keep student athletes happy.

How much would it cost UB?

Using the chart from the previous section the math is easy, $2,917 increase for 80 football scholarship athletes = $233,360 annually. Estimating our in state to out of state ratio to be 1:4 based on the 2014 recruit class, UB could pay about $2,494,240 for 80 football scholarships this upcoming year. If they paid the full cost of attendance, the number would increase by 9.36% ($233,360), to $2,727,600.

While increasing the cost of anything while still struggling to eke out 6 wins is hard to swallow, UB still found the resources to fund a 29.23% salary increase to the head coach between 2010 and 2013 according to, including an 18.41% increase between 2012 and 2013.

In addition, UB's in-state to out-of-state ratio is an expense. An out-of-state student costs $11,940 more in 2014. If UB signed 5 NY athletes for every 6 out-of-state athletes, then the savings would offset the cost of the full cost of attendance scholarship.

I don't know where I stand on cost of attendance scholarships, it doesn't pay student athletes that much, yet it would give busy students athletes pocket money that would allow them to actually use their free time enjoying the college experience, instead of taking on more work, suffering/starving, or violating NCAA rules for a few dollars.

However, it would be a big cost for the athletic department, however the athletic department has money for questionable coaching raises and out-of-state recruits.

What do you think about full cost of attendance scholarships?