TORONTO, ON – U SPORTS announced changes to its scholarship structure on Thursday afternoon, a change which could heavily impact several sports across U SPORTS sanctioning.
The national organization sheds the requirement for first-year student-athletes to achieve a grade of 80 percent or higher in their final year of high school or CEGEP to be eligible for an Athletic Financial Award (AFA). Additionally, student-athletes will no longer be required to hit a 60 percent grade in their first year to continue in athletics.
The shift makes any student-athlete accepted to a degree-granting course eligible for an AFA.
“These changes intend to remove systemic barriers impacting a student-athlete’s ability to participate in U SPORTS and receive funding assistance for pursuing their education,” U SPORTS CEO Pierre Arsenault said in a press release.
“Our focus is to make university studies and sports participation more accessible. For current entering student-athletes, participation in U SPORTS depends on their high school or CEGEP grades. Therefore, we chose to align participation and scholarship qualification with admission to an institution.”
Also among the shifts is a requirement for athletic programs to allot a minimum 45 percent of their scholarships to women’s sports and 45 percent to men. The remaining 10 percent allows schools with large men’s rosters, such as football, to skew in either direction. Several U SPORTS programs are already at this mark.
“Student-athletes commit many hours to represent their university,” Arsenault added.
“Between attending classes, studying, practice and competitions, it is difficult for student-athletes to hold employment in-season. We are proud to work with our member institutions to ensure equitable opportunities for AFA support. We know that the changes adopted this week set all U SPORTS students up for greater success in the classroom and on the field of competition.”
An AFA equals 100% of tuition and mandatory fees for any student-athlete during an academic year. Therefore, a student with tuition and required fees of CAD $5,000 and who receives an athletic scholarship of CAD $5,000 would use one unit.
However, with the adjustment of allotted percentages, the AFA unit cap limits the amount of AFA units given to any program. For example, football currently has 33.6 available units, while female-only sports, field hockey and rugby, share a combined 28.7 units. The current AFA ceiling in policy 220.127.116.11 can be seen below.
The changes in the AFA structure for the 2024-25 season will force several athletics programs to re-adjust their scholarship structure going forward, potentially shifting the sporting landscape, making schools once not attractive to some student-athletes, all the more enticing.