In his Comment of the Day, Michael elaborates on the ethics of college sports generally, going beyond the original topic of major football programs. The expenditures on student athletes is an ethics scandal all by itself, as Michael makes clear. When the headlines in the D.C. area were all about Maryland cutting eight varsity sports, I was stunned to learn 1) that the university spent a whopping $67, 390 per student athlete, and that this was the lowest amount in the the ACC (as opposed to Florida State’s $118, 813). What possible justification could there be for this, when tuition costs are already crushingly high? Michael’s post makes the answer clear: none.
Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day, on Is Buzz Bissenger Right? Should College Football Be Banned? Is He KIDDING? Of Course It Should…:
“What is shocking is how big an impact this has on college student lives and how little anyone actually cares about learning and how little people actually care about the college students.
“If you have seen the news recently, there is a debate going on about college loans. There are also stories every few days about the high costs of college and skyrocketing college loan amounts that are the next big bubble to burst in the economy. It is obvious that this is going to end badly, with devastating consequences for the students, the education system, and the whole of US, but no one wants to actually do anything about it. Everyone wants to just stick their fingers in their ears and hope it will all turn out OK like that mortgage-backed-securities thing did. If you want to get to the bottom of the problem, you first need to start looking at where the money goes.
“How much does college actually cost?”
“I have been teaching at colleges for over 10 years now. I go to meetings and they briefly flash the budgets on screens from time to time. They also show us budget breakdowns and show us what percentage of the cost goes to different units. What I have pieced together is that it costs about $14,000/year to educate a student at the small liberal arts college where I currently teach. Our tuition, however, is about $22,000. We don’t turn a profit. Where does the rest of the money go? It goes to sports! That’s right, fully 1/3 of the tuition dollars spent by EVERY SINGLE student goes to sports. It gets worse, students take out loans to cover the part they can’t pay for. They pay as much as they can, then they take out loans to cover the rest. This means that well over 1/3 of their student loan debt is to cover the cost of sports. I wouldn’t be surprised if well over 1/2 of the student loans on my campus were purely to cover the cost of our athletics programs.
“So what does this have to do with my state school?
“Well, a small, liberal arts college is probably the most inefficient way to educate people (costwise). I teach classes with 2-3 students every semester. My big classes have 40. At a large state university, a professor may teach a class with 600 students. They teach fewer classes, but they teach more students, so it is a cheaper way to teach. My state funds the state colleges and university by $18,000 per student (on average). The large state schools then charge an additional $10,000/year in tuition and fees. That works out to $28,000/year, but the actual cost of the education is less than $14,000. That means over half the cost is going to ‘extras’ like sports (remember, the football coach at Big State U. here makes more money than 150 faculty at my institution).
“The take-home message:
- Education costs significantly less than college.
- Sports are a major portion of the ‘extra’ costs of college.
- College loans are used disproportionally to pay for these ‘extra’ costs.
- The college loan burden and the availability of a college education can be vastly improved by cutting down on the ‘extra’ costs such as athletics.
“Oh…for the “But what about the students helped by athletic scholarships?”, here is something to think about. At my school, every student is paying about $8000/year for athletics (including the athletes). Few athletes get full scholarships, most are less than $5000/year. School is more expensive for them with an athletic scholarship than without athletics! In addition, the costs of the fields, travel, staffing, etc sucks up more than the tuition they pay. Without the sports, my school could either cut tuition or give away an extra $8000/student in academic and need based scholarships each year! Most of our students’ financial aid problems would disappear!”