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Brown, Columbia claim aid plan tips balance in athletic recruiting

Though new financial aid programs at Princeton and Yale universities will make it more affordable for students from lower and middle-class families to enroll, there is some concern that the programs may unfairly tip the balance on the playing field of Ivy League athletics.

Athletics directors at other Ivy League schools said they are concerned that by offering more financial aid to a wider pool of students, Princeton and Yale may attract a greater number of potential athletes.

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They said they are worried that what the University's Board of Trustees referred to as "the most important changes in Princeton's financial aid policies in several decades" may fundamentally change Ivy League athletics.

Changing the Rules

Columbia University's Athletics Director John Reeves called it "the biggest change since the league's establishment in 1954."

Joan Taylor, senior associate director of athletics at Brown University, voiced similar concerns. "The rules have changed. It's hard to say how it will affect the league, but it means coaches will have to recruit harder," he said.

However, though Yale and Princeton officials conceded that they may attract a few additional athletes, they said they do not foresee as significant an impact as the Columbia and Brown officials did.

Don Betterton, director of undergraduate financial aid at Princeton, said he did not anticipate a huge impact on athletics. "My personal opinion is that it may have a small effect, but I wouldn't think the numbers would be so large that another institution would feel that they were losing students to Princeton," he said.

"To the extent that we will have more applicants, a limited number of those students will be athletes. But I don't know if it'll help us too much," he added.

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"At Yale, the decision to put together a new financial aid program was the result of concern about higher education. A number of families found the price of a Yale education unaffordable. It was not an athletic decision," Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett said.

Beckett said he was hopeful that all the schools in the Ivy League would have an expanded pool of applicants to choose from, but added, "More students will be looking at Yale as an opportunity they didn't have before, and inevitably some of those students will be athletes."

'Another challenge'

Despite the views of Princeton and Yale officials, Reeves still expressed concern.

"It will definitely cause an imbalance," he said, citing the need to find creative ways "to deal with the situation at Princeton and Yale" and "to re-level the playing field."

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At the same time, Reeves praised the policy changes. "It's admirable to make policy decisions for sound academic and institutional reasons, and not the reverse. In my opinion, it was done for all the right reasons," he said.

"The fact that the athletic departments will be affected is just another challenge," he added.

Princeton is already ranked among the nation's top ten "jock schools" according to Sports Illustrated, with the men's basketball team ranked ninth in the country and two recent national championships for men's lacrosse team.

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