The student-athletes on scholarship at Fresno State no doubt knew there would be a little extra in their checks through a cost-of- attendance stipend – $3,500 in total, working out to an additional $388 in each of the nine checks they receive through the school year.
What many of them got instead was a surprise.
With the cost of room and board at Fresno State increasing this year from last, the value of an athletic scholarship that covers tuition and fees, room and board and course-related books, went up as well. Add in the cost-of-attendance stipend, and the result is a much fatter scholarship check.
The first of those nine checks, distributed on the first day of classes, was worth $1,678. Last year, those checks were worth $990. The difference is an extra $688 per check – $6,192 for the school year – to help pay for rent, utilities, food, gas and other incidental expenses.
“It’s a great tribute to the support we get from our administration. We have as much support as anyone in the country with (University President Dr. Joseph Castro) and with (athletic director) Jim Bartko,” Bulldogs football coach Tim DeRuyter said. “They understand that the main focus of the entire university is the students – and this is just another indication of that, that we’re going to be fully committed to that.
“It’s a dramatic increase over a year ago, but I think anything we can do to help our student-athletes we have to do. Hopefully, we can educate them on good uses for that money – nutrition, taking care of their basic needs. They should have all of that taken care of.”
Anything we can do to help our student-athletes, we have to do.
Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter
Not every school in the Mountain West Conference is offering cost-of-attendance stipends this year; some are offering them to student-athletes in selected sports, some to none at all.
Fresno State is offering the stipends to all its student-athletes, as are Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Utah State and Wyoming. The cost to the athletic department is around $1.2 million, which it is raising through donations.
A good portion of that money will go to food, at least for the football players. Fresno State started a training table last year and healthy snacks are available at the Meyers Family Sports Medicine Center. But several players have said that toward the end of the month, when the money is running low, so too did the quality of their dining options away from campus.
Senior center Bo Bonnheim was a nonscholarship walk-on when he enrolled at Fresno State before earning a scholarship after spring practice in 2012. He has felt that crunch.
$1,678 Amount of each of nine scholarship checks a year distributed to Fresno State student-athletes, up from $990 in 2014-15
“You start to run pretty low after paying rent. Paying all my bills and stuff and then having to pay for food, I’d get down to where I’d have to be careful for a week or two,” Bonnheim said. “I think a lot more guys are going to be able to get what they need and probably a little more of what they want.”
Bonnheim added jokingly that he’d be opening a savings account now.
“You have to give credit to everyone that got that set up for us, that went to the lengths to get us that extra money. I appreciate them for doing that,” Bonnheim said.
DeRuyter said his players would get advice on how to handle the additional scholarship money, and recognized the difficult decisions many have had to make every month.
“We have a dietician that talks to them about making good nutrition choices, whether it’s at a supermarket or whether it’s out in restaurants,” he said. “Because they’ll have some additional money, they’ll be able to have a cell plan or put some gas in the car.
“Those kinds of decisions can be bothersome to guys – do I fill my car with gas and eat something cheap from the 99-cent value meal or do I eat something that’s good fuel-wise for me? I think at this age especially, you have to repeatedly tell them what to do so they just naturally know that’s the right thing to do. We’ll do that and continue to do that.”
For a lot of athletes, it’s really stressful.
Fresno State women’s basketball player Alex Furr
The additional support will help student-athletes on and off the field in all Fresno State programs as they juggle their time between academic work as well as training, practice and competing in games.
“You perform better when you have less stress and with more money in your pocket and not worrying about whether you’re going to be able to make it through the entire month,” said Alex Furr, a graduate student on the women’s basketball team. “It’s going to cut down a lot of stress and I think in turn it will make athletes perform better.
“Here at Fresno State, I think we’re really taken care of well, especially now with the training table and stuff like that. And with our scholarship checks going up, there is absolutely no reason that an athlete should be stressed out about eating or money to spend. I think the athletes will all be very happy about that, and it just says a lot about how much our administrators care about us. It is nice to come here and know that the president and the AD, that they all really care about the athletes.”