December 27th, 2011 | Sports

Ivy financial aid draws top athletes, Times reports

ehrenberg_wvolleyball-36
Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

Ivy League schools may not offer athletic scholarships, but their ability to provide generous financial aid packages attracts top athletes anyway, according to an article in the New York Times last week.

Years ago, middle-class recruits ruled out Ivy League programs because of the steep price tag. Now, new policies boosting financial aid for all admitted students have brought more elite athletes of diverse economic backgrounds to the Ancient Eight, according to the article. Strong financial aid has not totally prevented Yale and its Ivy peers from losing top recruits to big-time scholarship programs, like Stanford, Northwestern and Duke, but the composition of Ivy teams has shifted toward the middle class, coaches quoted in the article said.

“It got to the point where the only elite athletes we could reasonably recruit were either relatively poor or very wealthy… the new financial aid policies level the playing field with middle-class recruits. Of course, we still lose recruits all the time,” long-time Cornell wrestling coach Rob Koll said in the article.

Erin Appleman, head coach of Yale’s volleyball team, told the Times that many of her recent recruits come from middle-class families and would have not considered Yale an option even five years ago. Outside hitter Erica Reetz ’14, for instance, turned down full athletic scholarships after Yale offered her $33,000 to attend, she said in the article.

The Times article comes as Ancient Eight athletic teams are holding their own on the national stage. Yale’s men’s ice hockey team and Cornell’s wrestling team both held No. 1 rankings last winter, and Harvard’s men’s basketball team notched its first-ever top 25 national ranking earlier this month.