GRAND FORKS – It was expected all along that the University of North Dakota would offer cost of attendance scholarships for men’s and women’s hockey players.
UND will take things much further than that, though.
The newly NCAA-approved scholarships, designed to give athletes money to cover items beyond tuition, books and room and board, will be awarded to all scholarship athletes at UND beginning in the 2016-17 school year, the school announced Wednesday.
The bold move comes six days after rival North Dakota State announced it would do the same.
The full cost-of-attendance scholarships – or full amended grant-in-aid, as UND terms it – are expected to cost $3,400 per full-scholarship student athlete. Those not on full scholarships will receive a percentage. For example, an athlete on a 70 percent scholarship will get 70 percent of the $3,400 and so on.
The monetary figure for the scholarships could change from year to year but would have cost the school an additional $731,000 if it was implemented across the board for this season, athletic director Brian Faison said.
UND did start the cost-of-attendance scholarships for the men’s and women’s hockey teams this season. Both programs have 18 full scholarships.
Faison said it was urgent to protect the hockey programs, which routinely recruit against Minnesota, Wisconsin and other large athletic departments, which are all implementing the full cost of attendance scholarships across the board.
UND’s other athletic teams didn’t face the same thing until NDSU’s announcement last week.
In the wake of that announcement, Faison heard from several UND coaches, who urged the importance of doing the same. UND had already looked into the possibility of implementing the scholarships for all sports and acted quickly.
UND is the first Big Sky Conference member to announce it will fund full cost-of-attendance scholarships and the third Division I FCS football program to announce it (NDSU, Liberty). South Dakota State and South Dakota have expressed interest in funding the scholarships, too.
“From my standpoint, it was important to put our coaches in better position to recruit against our regional peers,” Faison said. “We have the ability to do it. It’s just how you’re going to get it done.”
How will UND pay for it?
Faison said the money will come from a combination of things.
He said additional fundraising will be a factor. So will new revenue avenues, such as media streams, marketing and broadcasting.
“We have the ability to enhance a couple of revenue lines that have started to really grow for us as well,” Faison said.
Faison also said UND may have to realign some priorities in the athletic department to maximize money.
When asked if any programs may be cut, Faison said: “We’ll have to see. I’ve never had to do it. I don’t want to start doing it. But I can’t say it’s off the table.
“It’s not an option that I want to pursue, but at the end of the day, we have to do what makes the numbers work.”
Faison informed Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton of the decision Tuesday and told the head coaches in the athletic department Wednesday afternoon. He also sent a note to the Big Sky athletic directors prior to the public announcement.
UND football coach Bubba Schweigert said while coming off of the practice field Wednesday he is locked in on his team’s season-opening game Saturday at Wyoming, but he acknowledged that the addition of the full cost of attendance scholarships are important for his program.
“It’s a decision by the administration that we feel will really help us in our recruiting efforts and help us to get the word out on our program and the commitment our university makes to Division I athletics and Division I football,” Schweigert said. “I think it’s important to have resources at the highest level when you’re competing in the area for the top recruits.”
The value of a full amended grant-in-aid at UND is based on the total cost of mandatory fees and tuition (online tuition not included), room (as determined by UND for double occupancy), board (based on the “Unlimited Meal Plus Plan” rate) and books (as determined by the NCAA), plus personal expenses (including transportation) as outlined by the Student Financial Aid Office for athletes.
Non-athletes have been able to receive the full cost of attendance scholarships in the past, but the NCAA did not allow athletes to receive them until new legislation passed last year.