After introducing its first adaptive sports tennis team in March 2020, Sullivan Foundation partner school Clemson University has rolled out a tuition support program to help bring more wheelchair tennis student-athletes to campus to play and earn their degrees.
Out-of-state tuition waivers allow students to pay their four-year tuition at the in-state cost, making Clemson a more affordable option for potential student-athletes from across the country. Jasmine Townsend, director of the Clemson University Adaptive Sports and Recreation Lab in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, said waiver programs are a key component to growing a successful adaptive sports program.
“Making tuition more affordable to potential adaptive student-athletes gives them an increased incentive to travel to Clemson to play and earn their degree,” Townsend said. “Clemson leads the way in many different types of athletic programs, and these waivers help us attract the best and brightest people to our campus so we can start to also lead the way in collegiate adaptive sports.”
Townsend’s lab and department are housed in the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. Building a thriving adaptive sports community helps to meet the College’s goal of building safe and healthy communities for all, she said.
Out-of-state tuition waivers have been available since 2017 for students with impairments including cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke through the University’s Paralympic Soccer program. Townsend noted that adding new tuition support programs for adaptive sport student-athletes doesn’t just benefit potential students.
“Growing an adaptive sport community on campus helps us meet ClemsonForward’s Living priority specific to sustaining athletics, wellness and recreation programs, and achieving inclusive excellence,” Townsend said. “These programs also help encourage growth in adaptive sports at the community recreation level, because students now have a collegiate goal that’s a possibility for them to achieve.”
The adaptive sports tennis team, consisting of Marsden Miller and lecturer Jeff Townsend, has already competed at several collegiate events. Jeff won singles and doubles champ for the B division at the wheelchair tennis championships in Hilton Head last October, among other wins throughout the season, and the team also sent a representative to the Tennis Congress in Tucson last fall. The Tennis Congress is an invitation-only event consisting of players and coaches from around the world working to raise the bar for tennis training. Last year’s event was the first to include wheelchair tennis, and Clemson University was among a small handful of universities with adaptive sport programs invited to participate.
Jeff Townsend said the waiver is being implemented to bring more wheelchair athletes to Clemson and grow the program while increasing awareness on campus about adaptive athletics.
“Our ultimate goal is to create a thriving adaptive sport community here at Clemson,” Jeff said. “These waivers are an important step towards ensuring adaptive athletes come to recognize Clemson University as the best place to compete on a collegiate level.”
This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on Clemson University’s website.