Student loans have eclipsed credit cards as the number one cause of debt, but it might come as a surprise to struggling students that part of their college tuition is subsidizing the multibillion-dollar world of college sports.
According to research by Jeff Smith at the University of South Carolina Upstate, 227 public colleges at the NCAA Division 1 level made more than $2 billion in athletic fees from students during the 2010-2011 school year.
Ironically, the colleges and universities with the higher percentages of poorer students (with large debt) are the institutions charging the highest "student fees" for sports.
All students have to bear the burden of college athletic programs, but few actually benefit. Critics say this creates a "regressive tax" on low income students.
According to Bloomberg News:
[At] schools belonging to the five conferences with the highest athletic fees, more than 60 percent of the students received federal loans, and more than 36 percent received Pell grants. At schools belonging to the five conferences with the lowest fees, 41 percent of students received loans, and 23 percent had Pell grants.
Public universities can rake in millions with student fees, game tickets and television broadcasts.
While the schools claim their sports programs enhance and benefit the educational part of the college or university, there are several acclaimed schools without sports programs such as the University of Chicago, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
B. David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University, did a similar study of college fees, but also asked students for their reactions. He shared the responses with Time magazine, which included:
Let’s put this money towards buying the books I can barely afford for engineering instead of towards sports that not even half of this campus cares enough to watch.
The devotion my school and others have towards athletics over research or improving campus/student life is infuriating.
This is an idiotic way to spend MY money. I did not come to college for sports. I came to further my education. ACADEMICS>athletics
I’m shocked at this! I can’t believe it. I didn’t know that there was a general fee that great or what it went to. This is upsetting to say the least.
Sources: Time and Bloomberg News