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Student athletes given $2.6 mil in waivers

By Alison Block
On March 4, 2014

Financial aid at Miami University consists of more than just scholarships and loans; certain qualifying students can also get part of their fees waived altogether. These fee waivers are similar to scholarships in that they cover the cost of attending school, but they differ in the way in which they are awarded.

To get an academic scholarship from Miami University, a student must meet certain a Grade Point Average and ACT or SAT criteria. Meanwhile, fee waivers are reserved for certain demographics and awarded on a case-by-case basis within each group, including foreign students, graduate students, general university students, members of the Miami Tribe, out-of-state students and separately, out-of-state athletes. Fee waivers usually cover instructional fees that are part of the general tuition cost.

Associate Vice President of Budgeting and Analysis for the university David Ellis said fee waivers differ from other forms of financial aid.

"There are fee waivers, that essentially decrease the amount of the fee, and then there are scholarships that deduct against the cost," Ellis said. "At the end of the day it's the same thing, it just gets recorded differently."

Unlike merit scholarships, the fee waivers are separated into categories and are awarded to a specific group of students based on unique criteria.

Each category has a different amount available to award to those who qualify. For example, students who are part of the Miami Tribe would be entitled to a portion of the $323,468 set aside in fee waivers for Miami Tribe members only.

The 252 out-of-state athletes are allocated $2.6 million-dwarfing the $371,000 for non-athletic out-of-state students.

According to Miami Deputy Athletic Director Mark Rountree, the fee waivers for out-of-state athletes are intended to reduce the cost of their tuition to around the cost of in-state tuition. After this deduction, the athletic department's own scholarships can have a near equal impact on what any athlete pays in tuition, regardless of what state he or she might call home. This enables the athletic department to recruit outside Ohio.

"The value of an out-of-state tuition waiver is $15,790. Student-athletes from out-of-state can receive any amount from $0 to $15,790 to cover the out-of-state tuition," Rountree said. "It gives us the flexibility whether that student is in state or out of state to be able to offer them a full scholarship...I think Miami tries to draw from a diverse population of students. It's the same way in athletics."

Rountree also made it clear that not every student athlete receives a scholarship or a fee waiver when they come to play for Miami. In fact, many athletes do not receive financial assistance from the athletic department.

Still, the athletic department tries their best to give their athletes a neutral cost so that their merit based scholarships have more of an impact.

Though some students found the idea of athletes having fees waived unfair, not all students agreed. Sophomore Steve Ramos, who is not an athlete, said he thinks it is fair that out-of-state athletes get more of a chance at higher scholarships.

"From a business standpoint, they're like a product," Ramos said. "That money is coming back to us, through things like ticket sales. And they have to pay for the rest of their [higher] tuition so there's that revenue too."

Junior Victor Magro, also a non-athlete, thinks the high dollar amount allocated to help pay for out-of-state athletes' fees is "perfectly fair."

"It's not like we're paying them to go here, we're giving them scholarship money to come here," Magro said. "Student athletes are people who very visibly improve campus quality of life. The other students enjoy going to the games, not like we're always good or anything, but everyone enjoys going to them. And they're also supporting campus life and campus morale, the better they do, the more students they attract, the more money they bring into the university and the more money the university can then put into other things."

Whether students think fee waivers are fair or not, Ellis said that the administration certainly does.

"[The University's] focus is usually on overall affordability than it is over one group receiving favorable treatment relative to another group or one student relative to another," Ellis said.

And though the fee waivers range from $2.6 million for out-of-state athletes to $93,117 for students going to Miami Luxembourg, Ellis maintains that the fee waivers set aside for the 252 out-of-state student athletes is not unreasonable.

"In terms of assessing the 2,652,250... to you and me, that's a lot of money, but inside the university budget it's a relatively modest amount," Ellis said.

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