Scholarships to Nowhere

Over the past several months, the declining economy seems to be affecting everyone negatively. However, with the culmination of the UC system’s budget cuts, schools becoming impacted and the ever impending constant threat of rising fees and tuition, it is clear that students are the ones being hit the hardest. Students attending UC’s such as UC Irvine are considered the cream of the crop, whether it is for academics or athletics.

However, the impending budget cuts threaten to potentially eliminate one of the strongest reasons why students and athletes alike flock to Irvine to become Anteaters – sports.

The athletics department here at UCI is unfortunately considered to be at the lower end of the totem pole of importance, and thus are among the least funded departments. With a miniscule allotment of about $10 million to run the entire athletics department, UC Irvine has made the best with what little they have.

The athletics department has forged a solid Division I reputation by picking the most elite athletes for our teams (such as our national champion men’s volleyball team), but despite all that they have to offer to the university, they are often overlooked when finances are concerned. Along with the budget cuts and the rising tuition, there has been a general trend where “full rides” transform into “packaged deals.” Athletes have to look toward academic scholarships to supplement the minimal amount of scholarships that the athletic department can offer.

The athletics department and coaches alike have been trying to stretch the value of a dollar for a long time and split scholarships up to fulfill the needs of their athletes while still being able to put together strong competitive teams. Luckily, due to the large local athletic reservoir of talented athletes, they have been very successful in maintaining their programs’ level of quality under stringent finances.

When the UC Regents tried to mend their budget, its concerns were trying to focus on the now, while the athletics department was focusing on recruits two and three years from now. The primary concern of the athletics department is making scholarship promises and then going back on these promises because of the budget cuts effects.

To avoid causing problems in the near future, the athletics department is making hard decisions, such as cutting scholarships and the discontinuing of five programs last year.

With more income being cut from the department, Athletics faces the potential of cutting another program. This would be devastating to a number of athletes, but also it would hurt the school because in order to continue in the Big West Conference, UCI must have a minimum of 14 programs running. As of today, UC Irvine has 18 programs.

The honest truth about the prospective future that these budget cuts will create is one wherein strong academic students cannot get into schools because majors are too impacted and tuition is too costly, and one wherein athletes will be forced to give up their dreams of playing for a Division I school because they cannot get the funds needed.

It is key that there be change in the support of our athletes in order to keep the school afloat. Not only do the programs give the potential for increased donations to the school and increased application rates, but they also create a bridge between academia and the community by engaging the alumni and encouraging them to support their alma mater.

It is pertinent that we as students let our voices be heard on behalf of the athletics department and call for a change in the budget because after all, it will be our kids that someday will be denied the opportunity to go to school if we decide to let ourselves be silenced.

Ryan Wallace is a third-year biology major. He can be reached at rpwallac@uci.edu.