College athletes at the eight public Division I universities in Alabama received a combined .8 million in Pell Grant aid during 2012-13, according to an AL.com analysis through open-records requests.
Two hundred Troy athletes received 9,143 in Pell Grants, by far the most need-based federal aid provided to a set of Division I athletes in Alabama. Alabama State had the second-highest amount with 8,984 going to 147 athletes.
The University of Alabama had 131 athletes receive 6,495 in federal aid, with football players accounting for 51 percent of the total. Auburn had 112 athletes with Pell Grant awards totaling 9,327. Auburn was the only school that did not fully comply with AL.com's request for Pell Grant data by sport, arguing that providing the information could reveal personally-identifiable information.
Among the seven Alabama universities that provided Pell Grant information by sport, football players totaled .1 million and accounted for half of all athletes' need-based aid. Roughly a quarter of the Division I athletes in Alabama are football players.
Troy had 105 football players receive a total of 7,897 in Pell Grants last year. That was nearly as much need-based aid as all of UAB's athletes (102 recipients totaling 5,189).
At the Football Bowl Subdivision level, 30 percent of athletes from those five Alabama schools received federal aid. Fifty percent of athletes at the three public Football Championship Subdivision schools in Alabama were on Pell Grant. The NCAA said in 2012 that
Any college student may apply for federal aid based on financial need. The maximum award in 2012-13 was ,550 per year. The amount increased to ,645 in 2013-14 and goes to ,730 in 2014-15.
The NCAA is trying to pass rules that would give conferences the choice to provide more financial benefits to players, such as a cost-of-attendance stipend.Some supporters of restricting athlete compensation have argued that players are already being paid through Pell Grants.
John Infante, an expert in NCAA compliance and said Pell Grants are only useful as a debate tool to answer the "starving artist" argument of whether athletes have enough money to eat.The aid, he said, doesn't answer claims that players should share in revenue they produce. Nor do Pell Grants end the debate of whether tying compensation to a scholarship is fair, or whether athletes legally can collectively bargain.
If college athletes eventually receive a full cost of attendance stipend and pocket Pell Grant money, "I'd be interested to see what the reform is like on the Pell Grant side more so than the NCAA side," Infante said. "Does that prompt more examination of how Pell Grants are awarded? I think there will be plenty of people, especially plenty of Congressmen, who will ask the same question."
Last week, House Republicans unveiled their 2015 fiscal year budget, which includes reductions to Pell Grants. The budget isn't expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate but could serve as a blueprint for negotiations over several government programs.
The proposal calls for the maximum Pell Grant award to be frozen for 10 years at ,730, according to The Associated Press. Under the budget proposal, funding for the Pell Grant program would be up to the discretion of Congress each year, eliminating the mandatory money stream that funds part of the program.
Currently, a Pell Grant will cover almost all of an eligible athletes' full cost-of-attendance figure as listed by a university's financial aid office. Cost of attendance is based on miscellaneous expenses beyond tuition, room and board and books.
For example, the 2012-13 gap between was ,332 for an in-state player and ,662 for an out-of-state player. At Auburn,
The NCAA allows an athlete receiving a Pell Grant to exceed a university's cost-of-attendance figure, although some university financial aid offices don't permit it, Infante said.It's not clear yet whether the NCAA's potential cost-of-attendance stipend would allow athletes to continue receiving their current amount from Pell Grant awards.
"I think if a student qualifies for a Pell Grant, so be it," said U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), who sponsored a bill seeking more rights for college athletes and hopes to hold Congressional hearings about the NCAA. "The Pell Grant caps right around ,700 and there's no student who lives away from home who goes for less than ,000 a year. So at best that's just 20 percent of federal aid for a student to attend college. There's another ,000 gap that universities have an opportunity to fulfill if a kid qualifies."
Check back on AL.com throughout the day to see sport-by-sport Pell Grant totals for Division I public universities in Alabama.
Division I Alabama Athletes on Pell Grants, 2012-13SchoolPell Grant AthletesTotal Amount% of Pell Grant Athletes From Football Troy2009,14353% Alabama State1478,98441% South Alabama1378,01658% Jacksonville State1349,87049% Alabama1316,49551% Alabama A M1172,69549% Auburn1129,327Not available UAB1025,18951%Sources: AL.com open-record requests from each university; participation numbers filed with the U.S. Department of Education.Notes: Samford is a private university and not subject to open-record laws. Auburn did not provide sport-by-sport Pell Grant data for its teams.
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