Competition is fierce for the most talented college athletes, and that’s why the University of Montana will soon be offering what are known as ‘cost of attendance’ funds for their athletes in addition to their scholarships, perhaps as soon as the next academic year.

UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam explained the program and how it will work for Grizzly athletes.

“A few years back, the NCAA lifted the scholarship limits that universities can provide to their student athletes,” said Haslam. “Used to be that only tuition room and board, books and fees were offered, but there’s also another portion of financial aid which is called ‘cost of attendance’ which is essentially what it costs you to go to school in Missoula. Things like getting home, buying yourself dinner and things like that. As athletic departments we are now allowed to offer up to cost of attendance on our scholarships. It allows us to give a little bit more scholarship funds into the pockets of our student athletes.”

Haslam said the cost of attendance amount depends on the school.

“Our cost of attendance is a little below $4,000, and a little bit more for someone who is from out of state,” he said. “Those are all listed on the University of Montana’s financial aid page on the website. Every university has to publish what their cost of attendance is. It does vary on the size of the university and where it’s located.”

The investment in student athletes has expanded as NCAA rules have allowed over the years.

“As these NCAA rules have loosened up over the years, we’re certainly done all that we can to invest in our student athletes,” he said. “When it was allowed to feed them more than just three meals a day we started investing heavily in nutrition. In summer school recently we now have access to student athletes that can train in summer school, so we’ve invested heavily in summer school tuition, so the cost of attendance will be a really nice next step.”

Haslam said the UM athletic department is reaching out to generous supporters to help with the funds needed to cover the cost of attendance.

“Some pretty quick math with 170-plus scholarships that we’re offering and times that by $3800 then that’s quite a bit of money,” he said. “We need to phase these things in and rely on good donors and those who support us to be able to provide this for our student athletes. We’d be providing these with donor funds and non-state funds that we would generate on our own. We want to make sure that we’re doing all we can to recruit and retain the student athletes that we can get on campus.”

Haslam said the cost of attendance will be tied to the amount of scholarship funds a student athlete receives.

“Cost of attendance is tied to a percentage of your scholarship, so you can’t get more than what your scholarship allows, whether it’s full or partial,” he said. “It does make a difference when you’re trying to make those decisions, weighing all the options from the fan base, to the major I want to pursue, or the coaching staff. When you’re in the living room of a young woman’s family and you’re recruiting for volleyball and you say ‘we’ll be paying for your tuition, your room and board, your books and your fees, and we’ll be able to give you a little bit of extra money too, so that you can get home at Christmas, buy yourself a new pair of shoes’. That’s because you won’t be able to have a job because you’re working full time as a student athlete.”

Haslam said the plan is to begin offering a limited amount of the cost of attendance in the next academic year. They will not be able to offer the full amount, he said.