“In the Jayhawk Conference, we are in competition with 18 other colleges for athletes,” said Cowley College President Patrick McAtee.
As colleges look for ways to stand out, the number of championships and the quality of the programs goes a long way, but usually money talks too.
One of the policies set down by the Jayhawk Conference is that no member can give full ride scholarships to athletes. That leaves the 19 member colleges to try to offer better deals to recruits.
Cowley College has resolved to be competitive in the area of attracting top tier athletes. In this economy, little draws the attention of a high school graduate more than the allure of money. Recruits may have the added incentive of a guaranteed work study position.
According to the Federal work study website, work study provides funds for part-time employment to help needy students to finance the costs of postsecondary education. Students can receive FWS funds at approximately 3,400 participating postsecondary institutions.
It is to be available to all students who qualify. There are two types of work study. Federal work study [FWS] is money from the government for students who qualify. The government provides 75 percent and the college contributes 25 percent.
Institutional work study is funded strictly by the college, and there are no set qualifications needed. The college can hire students that need work study but don’t qualify for FWS.
Cowley College allocates 35,768 hours of work study. Educational departments have 3,060 hours. Tutoring 2,000. General work study is set at 15,228.
Cowley sports have an additional 15,480 hours to use as needed, according to documentation provided by Sue Saia, vice president of student life. To break that down, $24,480 is set aside for educational departments, $18,000 is for tutoring, $121,824 is for general work-study, and $123,840 goes to athletes.
That’s a total of $288,144 for work study with a total budget of $263,747, Federal and Institutional work study combined. The allotted funds run over the budget by $24,397. Just to sample the distribution of hours given to athletics, men’s and women’s basketball each have 3,000 hours.
Baseball 2,100. Track and field gets a combined 2,400 hours. Departments other than athletics have asked in the past for more hours, said Sue Saia. She noted she has a hard time finding extra hours to move around.
“When that many hours are allotted elsewhere, it’s hard to maneuver,” said Sue Saia.
According to Mark Krug, NJCAA assistant executive director, “NJCAA student athletes are permitted to participate in a work study program, but they should not receive preferential treatment to the selection of work study opportunities.”
“Athletics is a huge part of Cowley College. Our college has made a commitment to the athletic programs here and to the students in those programs,” said Sue Saia. “Our president has stated this before in our employee meetings and our institution stands by this commitment.”
Athletic Director Tom Saia said what Cowley is doing with work study is not wrong.
“That’s why we are one of the tops,” said Tom Saia.
Tom Saia made it clear that Cowley is competing for athletes against schools that offer full ride scholarships.
“Myself and the coaches, we don’t want work study. We want full scholarships,” said Tom Saia.
Cowley doesn’t offer full rides, and athletes are left to pay dormitory and incidental fees out of their pocket.
“This work study is for athletics,” said Tom Saia. “It’s not about what’s fair or right.”
Barton County Community College found itself under investigation in 2005 when its work study numbers seemed out of proportion. Coaches were convicted of forging athlete’s signatures on time cards and paying them for not working.
The Topeka Capital-Journal covered the incident in an article on August 16, 2006. “The attitude is that if the feds come in and start investigating other schools, it will change. Right now everybody has the attitude it is just Barton and nobody is going to come after them,” said [Barton] athletic director Kurt Kohler. “The entire conference needs to wake up and make some changes so that the entire conference is clean.”
But some Jayhawk schools are not worrying about it “until it ends up knocking on their front door,” Kohler said.
Other colleges that also had some work-study payments of more than $4,000 per student annually included Barton County Community College, Cloud County Community College and Cowley College.
George Knox, president of Labette Community College, reviewed the work-study reports coming in from the 19 colleges in the conference.
He disputed allegations that abuse of work-study was widespread in the conference. “In my opinion it is not league-wide. I can’t tell you of a president in our Jayhawk conference that would stand for it,” he said.
McAtee disagrees with the Jayhawk Conference in regards to scholarships. “It would be better to give full rides. We’ve talked about this. We’ve gone around it a million times.”
The disbursement of work study hours is not a surprise to those in charge. McAtee is very aware of the situation with the allocation of work study. He also plans on addressing it in the future.
“You’re going to see a scaling back,” said McAtee. “It’s too high.” But right now, and as in many years past, athletes continue to hold the majority of the work study pie.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” said McAtee. “We’ve chosen to be competitive.”