March 15, 2001

Show Me The Money

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Imagine what Cornell could do if it could hand out scholarships. We have more sports offered than any Big Ten school, an endowment larger than any one in the SEC and the draw of being an Ivy League school. The Red or any one else in our conference would demolish the rest of the field.

But alas, the God of collegiate athletics figured that it would be unfair for the Ivy League to dominate the sports world since it already has a stranglehold over the corporate one.

But at least there is parity within the league. There is no conference in which teams are perennially as well matched as in our own. Even in a sport like basketball, the last-placed Red beat Princeton which will take on UNC this weekend in the NCAA Tournament. There is always a chance that any hockey, football, baseball, or wrestling team can cause a similar upset.

This is because there are certain rules that are made in the league: Thou shall not give athletic based scholarships, thou shalt not consort with other institutions about the allocation of scholarships to recipients and thou shalt not require an athlete to fulfill his or her commitment to an athletic team in order to accept financial aid. There is a large shopping list of terms devoted to this subject. Although many of these tenets are to blame for the dearth of success Ivy League teams enjoy in collegiate tournaments (with the exceptions of squash and crew), they have also maintained the competitiveness around our league.

But all that’s changing starting now.

The last few months have shown drastic alterations to financial aid policies at Princeton and Harvard. No, they are not suddenly allow to give athletic scholarships, but they have decreased the amount of student based loans (or in Princeton’s case, completely erased it).

Harvard increased need-based assistance by $2,000, lowering loans to just over $3,000. While President Hunter Rawlings III described the benefits of a work-study assistance program, the new financial packages worry me in another way.

Mainly recruiting.

This is the time of the season when coaches are tallying up the number of commitments and filling in their rosters for next year. While many of Cornell’s athletes are not on scholarship, many others are. I bet those athletes that are salivating over the extra time that Harvard and Princeton are giving their financial aid recipients.

The decreased number of hours worked become even more of an incentive to the student-athlete, who besides doing everyday course work, must also spend upwards of twenty hours working. Take it from someone who puts in at least as many hours into an extracurricular as a varsity athlete — time is priceless.

So unless the other Ivy schools start matching, if not exceeding, Princeton’s or Harvard’s offers, all the parity in our league will disappear.

Hopefully, peer pressure will force the other institutions to give in to the trend in financial aid. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell and Penn have mirrored each others’ progression in the eons that the Ivy League has existed. The trend will not stop now. After all, this isn’t the first time that financial aid reforms have been made.

But then again, Cornell’s seemingly limitless endowment isn’t nearly as limitless as the Crimson’s or Tigers’.

So savor those Cornell-Harvard hockey games, or the upsets over the Princeton basketball team. They may not happen much anymore. . . .

Archived article by Amanda Angel