UGA stipend ranks ninth in SEC

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s journalists follow the facts, because you deserve to know what’s really going on.

It was a new day for athletic programs of the so-called Power Five conferences when they approved a rule allowing them to pay the "full cost of attendance" as defined by the schools. The NCAA was feeling pressure after losing an antitrust suit so the richest athletic programs decided to throw a few more crumbs to football and basketball players who are not allowed to seek their market value in a collusive system.

Most of the SEC schools now have updated their cost of attendance figures for the 2015-16 academic year. I combed through the data for SEC schools to see where Georgia ranks among its league peers in the amount of the stipend it can offer athletes for costs beyond tuition, room, board, books and fees. (Several ACC schools have yet to publish their 2015-16 cost of attendance figures so I couldn't determine how Georgia Tech's $2,060 stipend compares.)

Georgia's 2015-16 stipend of $3,746 for a non-resident athlete ranks ninth-most among the 14 SEC schools. That's up from 13th-most when the Chronicle of Higher Education compared schools back in April, using data from 2014-15.

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Here's the full list for SEC schools, from highest stipend to lowest (figures from school Web sites unless otherwise noted):

Tennessee: $5,666

Auburn: $5,586

Mississippi State: $5,372

Alabama:  $4,886+

Mississippi: $4,600
South Carolina: $4,151+
Arkansas: $4,104
LSU: $3,920
Georgia: $3,746 non-state resident, $3,222 resident
Missouri: $3,742
Texas A & M: $3,528 non-state resident, $3,000 resident
Kentucky: $ $3,524 non-state resident, $3,256 resident

Florida: $3,330 res/non-res

Vanderbilt:  $2,780*

+ Data from National Center for Educational Statistics
*Does not include transportation costs

It's going to be interesting to see what happens with these stipends going forward. Nick Saban has called for a salary cap so no coach can offer recruits more than any other coach. At the SEC meetings, Georgia called for greater transparency with how each school calculates costs, and coach Mark Richt has questioned those calculations.

Schools have a lot of leeway in how they can calculate the additional costs that make up cost of attendance. The National Association of Financial Aid Administrators offers some best practices. But the U.S. Department of Education's guide for college financial aid professionals simply states: "The law specifies the types of costs that are included in the cost of attendance, but you must determine the appropriate amount to include for each category for students at your school."

What’s great about this is the conflict between a school’s educational mission (remember that?) and its athletic interests. Schools want to keep the COA figure low to avoid sticker shock for students who must pay and also for budgetary reasons. Football and basketball coaches want it higher so they can offer bigger stipends to recruits.

I know who I’ve got my money on to eventually win that battle.

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