Alumni Association mulls athletic scholarships

    The UCSD Alumni Association Scholarship Committee will discuss a proposal at a meeting later this week that would bring UCSD into compliance with NCAA Division II requirements by offering a minimum of $250,000 in athletic grants-in-aid. The plan, if approved, would be an alternative to the grants-in-aid proposal that the Academic Senate will discuss later this month.

    The plan would award $500 to every student athlete with no financial need, and up to $2,000 to low-income students, depending on the amount of need.

    Unlike the grants-in-aid proposal that was reviewed by the Academic Senate at its spring meeting, the Alumni Association’s plan will require every eligible student athlete to maintain a GPA of 3.2 while at UCSD, compared to a 2.7 GPA minimum in the other grants-in-aid proposal. In addition, eligible athletes would have to have had a high school GPA of 3.5, according to 1999 Thurgood Marshall College alumnus, former A.S. President Joseph Levanthal, who proposed the scholarship and is a part of the committee.

    Under the proposal, the Alumni Association would use funds previously allocated for sponsoring the National Merit Scholarship Program, which the association can no longer support after the UC system withdrew its participation in July 2005.

    “I think the proposal addresses many of the concerns of past athletic scholarship proposals,” Levanthal stated in an e-mail. “For example, this proposal requires student athletes to maintain a 3.2 GPA, which is higher than UCSD’s overall undergraduate average. Also, the scholarship would be awarded based on academics, not athletic ability. I also think the Alumni Association is a natural partner with athletics, as athletics is often what keeps students connected to their undergraduate university long after graduation.”

    This allows the aid to be an academic scholarship with an athletic component rather than primarily an athletic scholarship — a kind of merit scholarship the Alumni Association should be interested in supporting, according to Levanthal.

    A.S. Commissioner of Athletics Anna Ahlin said that she thinks the proposal is an excellent way to push athletes to be better students, in order to be eligible for the money. This would alleviate concerns raised by members of the Academic Senate at its meeting in spring that offering athletic scholarships is against UCSD’s academic spirit.

    The Alumni Association’s scholarship committee will discuss a number of options, and talks are likely to continue over a few weeks, according to John Valva, the association’s executive director. Valva said that the committee will aim to have a decision ready by mid-February.

    Scholarship Committee Chair Sheldon Engelhorn said that the Alumni Association has a strong interest in supporting an academic merit program.

    “Over the next few months, we will be discussing how we should modify our program,” Engelhorn stated in an e-mail. “As we have just begun the process, we haven’t yet discussed what elements might fit into the program and no specific proposals have yet been discussed.”

    Readers can contact Yasha Sharma at [email protected].

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