Pell Grants a Boon to College Football Players

on September 6, 2011

It’s no secret that many college students live below the poverty line while they are attending school. More than 9 million students rely on financial help from aid sources like the federal Pell grants program, which delivers a maximum of $5,500 each year in cash that does not have to be repaid.

However, even with Pell grants, loans, scholarships and other forms of aid available, some are starting to wonder if it’s finally time to compensate student athletes for their work on the field and in the gym. Over the past year, the NCAA has investigated alleged infractions at eight major universities across the country, with problems such as improper gift giving plaguing the reputation of college sports. After a summit that brought college presidents together with NCAA President Mark Emmert produced more questions than answers, many are concerned that the issues with college athletes accepting improper funds and gifts will continue.

Football Players Collecting an Average of $4,445 in Pell Grants

To try to determine how much in Pell grants and other aid college football players were collecting each year, the Des Moines Register looked at 23 different schools in the Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences. As it turns out, 1,064 college student athletes collected almost $5 million in Pell grants in 2010, which is on top of the full athletic scholarships that these students received. On average, each player got about $4,445 to spend as they see fit; with tuition, textbooks, student fees and room and board costs covered, the money goes to other costs like clothing, athletic equipment, training gear and more.

Pell Grants Seen as a Way to Help Football Players Avoid Compensation

With football players constantly worrying about the suspensions and other means of punishment that come with collecting anything that could be seen as compensation, Pell grants are somewhat of a godsend. With no time to work a typical student job, and with a higher level of general expenses than the average student, college football players who aren’t from a well-off background can be in constant need of additional cash.

When asked about how the Pell grants can benefit college football players, Iowa received Marvin McNutt commented that “The expectations placed on us have become year-round. It’s difficult to work a (part-time) job like other students; the time just isn’t there. I don’t know of any athlete who is going to say no to getting something beyond what the scholarship provides,” adding that he had not received a Pell grant in his time at Iowa.

The NCAA does not look to be changing its policies regarding athlete compensation any time soon, which means that student athletes will need to continue to find sources of additional income. With help from Pell grants and other types of student financial aid, it’s hoped that these athletes will be able to avoid temptation and will refrain from taking improper gifts or cash payments. Only time will tell if we see another scandal this year.


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