“I liked being at Knox, I liked the people, but my parents could not afford to bring me back,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard, who paid around $28,000 after scholarships and financial aid during his first year at Knox, explained that when his father lost his job, the pressure to cover costs reached an apex.
“I kept receiving letters saying, ‘If you cannot pay you can not be enrolled next year.’ It was a lot to take in,” Blanchard said. “I had gotten a few scholarships, but I would have needed another job to help cover some of the costs. I decided that was not what was best for me.”
Blanchard chose to move closer to home and transferred to North Park in Chicago, whose tuition costs run $16,000 less than that of Knox. He continues to play baseball, but now pays closer to $20,000.
Situations like Blanchard’s could have an adverse effect on the future success of Knox’s athletic program. Since Division III schools cannot give athletic scholarships under NCAA regulations, Knox must find the financial means to develop a program that can attract and retain more student athletes.
“Since we are an NCAA Division III institution, we are not allowed to award athletic scholarships,” Director of Financial Aid Ann Brill said. “We are audited each year by the NCAA to ensure we are not giving preferential treatment to student athletes over non-athletes.”
Alternatively, the athletic program will be included in the upcoming capital campaign, a major fundraising effort spearheaded by President Teresa Amott.
“There’s a lot of stuff to be done, and if we have a big menu in the capital campaign, then people will gravitate toward what they love,” Amott said. “There are always donors who will say to the president, ‘What is your top priority? I want to help Knox, so tell me, what is your top priority?’ And there are also donors who say, ‘My Knox experience was all about football. I want to help football.’”
Amott specifically referenced the $1.6 million donation to the football program made on behalf of Vernon Stisser ‘62 during homecoming week 2012 as something the college can build on.
On a short term basis, Amott said other aspects of the athletic department can be improved within the current budget.
For instance, through a combination of fundraising and reallocating funds within the department, Knox has added five full-time coaches over the last two years. This was done with an overall increase of $15,000 in expenses, according to Amott.
Amott also told TKS that non-personnel expenses like fitness center upgrades and recruiting costs have each increased $15,000 with support from the K Club, a booster organization for Knox athletics.
“[These temporary increases] are not a long-term solution, but in three or four years, we will hopefully be in a better [financial] position,” Amott said.
That is, the financial situation will be bolstered by the capital campaign, which is expected to raise over $150 million for the endowment. In that case, programs and projects started by smaller, more specific donations can be absorbed into the athletic department budget permanently.
While these expectations will not directly help student athletes like Blanchard, they show that the athletic program is on the college’s strategic planning radar.
For Blanchard, his Knox experience was, in fact, quite valuable.
“The thing I know now is that I was getting a good education at Knox,” he said. “I think I was challenged more academically, and it is just unfortunate it did not work out financially.”
Editor-in-chief Charlie Gorney contributed to this report.