Starting this academic year, Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) will offer some athletes financial assistance to better compete with other area community colleges as well as season-ending tournaments.
“We’ve had this conversation of elevating our athletic program for the last five or six years,” said Duane Herr, athletic director at AACC. “Other regional community colleges who were in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III were downsizing some of the teams, and the majority of Maryland community colleges were already in or transitioning to Division II.”
By going to the NJCAA Division II level, the college can now offer athletic financial aid to an additional six sports at the Arnold campus. The additional sports are men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, and golf. Baseball and softball were already in NJCAA Division II and men’s and women’s lacrosse remain non-division scholarship sports.
The scholarships will be merit based but will offer local and regional athletes needed financial resources to enroll or remain in school.
“Many of our athletes have to work part-time jobs to pay for their tuition,” said women’s soccer and lacrosse coach Jim Griffiths. “At least half of my players have some type of part-time job to pay for school and books. Some have to choose between playing sports and working for their tuition. Having these financial opportunities will help our athletes stay in school and worry less about how to pay for next semester’s tuition.”
The community colleges that surround AACC, such as Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville (CCBCC), CCBC Essex and Chesapeake Community College, are already in NJCAA Division II and recruit Anne Arundel County athletes.
“This will level the playing field with our neighboring community colleges, and hopefully by offering financial assistance, it will convince some of our county athletes to stay at home,” Griffiths said.
AACC also has plans to invest in improving its athletic facilities to further attract local and regional athletes.
Griffiths noted the colleges get several athletes outside of the county and state.
“The financial aid will reduce the out-of-county tuition costs and make AACC a viable option,” Griffiths said.
As a coach, Griffiths is looking forward to scheduling practice and not having some of his players leave to go to their part-time jobs.
“We have dedicated student-athletes and many of them make the NJCAA all-academic teams, but between class, homework, practice, games and getting treated for injuries, they have a packed schedule,” Griffiths said. “Then throw in a part-time job to pay for tuition, my players are drained. The scholarship opportunities will help reduce their stress level.”
Going to NJCAA Division II will also assist with travel costs. Many NJCAA Division III teams AACC played in the past were in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Now, AACC can play and compete with other NJCAA Division II schools in Maryland.