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By Grant McDonald

To stay or not to stay–that is the question.

At this time every year a handful of student-athletes eligible to graduate must decide if they will forfeit their final year of eligibility, or dish out roughly $5000 to stick around and play one more season. For Ryan “Snake” Vandenburg the decision is tough.

“It comes down to dollars and cents,” said the star men’s volleyball player and fourth-year Urban Planning student. Vandenburg was named the 2004 OUA Most Valuable Player and a 2003-04 All-Star. Topping it off, he is a two-time Ryerson Male Athlete of the year. At this point, Vandenburg said the potential cost in tuition and living expenses of a fifth season is holding him back. “You got to weigh your options and do what’s best for you. You might want to play an extra year, but it’s going to cost you 10 or 15 thousand dollars to stay, maybe that’s not the best option,” said Vandenburg.

If he decides not to return next year Snake will look to head South and turn pro. He explained that he is having too much fun playing and is not interested in entering the workforce yet. Unlike Vandenburg, men’s hockey co-captain Chris Sutton said he will stretch his degree an extra year so he can stay on the ice.

“I’ve talked with my family about this, and the thing is, hockey’s been my life. You don’t ever want to let go of something that you love so much, hold on to it, money is a secondary issue,” said the third-year Aerospace Engineering student. Some of Sutton’s costs are covered by various academic and sports bursaries. However, he realizes that for many people the funds are simply not available. When a player considers staying an extra year, Sutton said there are two factors at play.

The first, of course, is money. And the second is what a player wants to achieve in the near future. “It just all depends on what people are pursuing, if they want to pursue a career right away, or if they want to just keep playing hockey and having fun,” said Sutton.

Terry Haggerty, manager of Ryerson Interuniversity Sports, believes that the decision to stay or go is really an independent one and is different for each athlete. “I don’t think anybody consciously comes (to university) thinking they’re going to spread it over five (years) but they may find that with the amount of time commitment of both being a student and an athlete that it just kind of evolves and they take the extra year to do it,” Haggerty said.

“I’ve always just told people to find the workload that they’re comfortable with.”

Erin Gallagher, a fourth-year Radio and Television Arts student and co-captain of the women’s volleyball team, said she is not comfortable stretching a four year program into five. “When you play for a Canadian school, after you’re done, that’s it–you have your education to back you up,” said Gallagher. She will, however, be returning to Ryerson as a graduate student studying Communications next season. Four years ago, when Gallagher was applying to universities, she said she did not choose Ryerson for volleyball.

Her decision instead was based strictly on academic interest. This mindset has not since changed. “If you are just (staying an extra year) to play a sport, it’s not worth it. You go to a Canadian university for school, not sports,” said Gallagher. Lukas Porosa, a fourth-year Biology and Chemistry student and Ryerson’s 2002 male athlete of the year, has decided to play out his final year. Since his father, Mirek Porosa, is the coach of the men’s volleyball team, the libero’s tuition is fully paid — this made his decision easy.

“For sure I want to come back and play on my last year of my eligibility,” Porosa said. “I want to finish playing all my years at one school; we have a good team and hopefully we can bring a banner to the gym.” Like Gallagher, Porosa’s plan is to take a two-year masters program next year at Ryerson.

He said the first year would be spent playing volleyball and the second he would help coach the team. Porosa thinks he is making the right decision, but that it might not be for everyone. “Just to play a year and have no future, sure it’s fun, but it’s going to cost you.”

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