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Lehigh, And Lafayette, Are Offering More Aid

It may have been that I was too smitten by Lehigh's chances to win the Patriot League tournament. But aside from the news that American was jobbed of a better seed (how could they be a 15 seed, facing off against Tennessee who has a realistic shot to be a Final Four team?) and that Dayton was jobbed, period (exactly how does a team that knocked off Pitt and Louisville get snubbed, while St. Joe's makes it in?), there's some news in the world of the Patriot League as well.

Basically matching what Lehigh had announced some weeks ago, Lafayette in essence declared the same type of academic aid policy today. They allowed all students whose families are making $50,000 a year or less exempt from paying any student loans, and capped the student loan amount for families making $50,000 to $100,000 at $2,500 per student. (Lehigh's cap is $3,000 per student, but they also increased their work-study number which may basically both aid policies are the same.)

This is in response to what the Ivy League has done for their students. Harvard, by declaring that all students from families making under $100,000 will have their educations paid for (and a cap on loans of up to 10% of a family's income up to something like $180,000), has caused a chain reaction through the Ivy League with every school coming up with some form of aid policy for all students.

It's important to keep in mind why the Harvard, Ivy League schools and (now) Patriot League schools would do it. They're doing it to make education more affordable for everyone, not just athletes. The principle is great: making college more affordable for everyone. As a parent of a young child, I am very much in favor of schools trying to tackle this problem.

The tricky part is - however - how to make athletics competitive in this economic reality. Ultimately it's up to the leagues to figure out how to make athletics work in this environment, but Ivy League fans are in a great debate right now over this very subject. Will Harvard's seemingly unlimited resources give them an unfair advantage over everyone else?

For the Patriot League, what's the impact? I haven't talked to anyone about this - yet - but upon first glance it seems like the major impact will be on non-revenue sports. There is no way the athletic department gives full scholarships to (say) our entire men's and women's soccer teams. But now, those same teams will get generous aid that is available to all students. Might it deter someone from out-of-state going to, say, Delaware?

In football, the benefit is less clear. Patriot League football teams already offer grants-in-aid for a significant number of players. It may simply be an accounting issue, instead of the grant money coming from the "athletics" pot it comes from the "larger" pot.

What will happen?

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