Is it time to pay college athletes?

Posted by Ronald | May 16, 2014  |  No Comment

 According to the latest report of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCA), Division I college athletes graduate at a higher rate than the student population as a whole. Considering the number of hours spent in practices and games, student athletes spend more hours on the college campus involved in co-& extra-curricular activities than the student population as a whole. With the issue of rising tuition costs and the substantial amount of revenues generated from college sports to universities and businesses, the critical questions to be asked are: Is it time to pay college athletes? What is the debate regarding this matter?

Many students become eligible for federal, state and local funds such as grants and loans depending on the cost of attendance to attend college and their financial needs according to government guidelines. The same process is applied typically for students on academic and sports scholarships. Students obtain financial aid based upon the parents or students’ financial situation or the students’ merit performance.

 For example, if a student’s parent household made too much money in the previous income tax year, the government expects for the student’s parent to contribute towards his or her cost of attendance.  If the student’s parent household made insufficient money in the previous income tax year and has no resources to contribute to the student’s education, the student could become eligible for financial assistance through grants and loans. If the student earned a full academic or sports scholarship, the student could use the value of the scholarship to meet the cost of attendance to attend school.

Whether students fall under one of these examples, proponents of student-athletes argue that students should be paid to play college sports. Some of the reasons include the risk of serious injuries in college such as concussions, the possibility of medical expenses from injuries after they leave college, the need to pay a variety of college expenses such as groceries and the substantial debt from expenses after they leave college. On the other hand, opponents of paying college athletes purport that paying them would deter their attention from academics, will eliminate non-revenue sports such as cross country and swimming and increase significantly bribery and cheating in the system.

As reported in the Washington Post, the NCCA President Mark Emmert said, “We have long heard from fans that there is little support for turning student-athletes into paid employees of their universities. The overwhelming majority of student-athletes, across all sports, play college athletics as a part of their educational experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid for salary.”

While the practice has been to reward employees such as basketball and football coaches million of dollars, student-athletes are advocating for the same right to become employees of the college. Students at Northwestern University pushed for unionization to be classified as employees instead of students, and they were granted such privilege in March 2014 through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as reported in the Tribune Business News. Despite the value of a college scholarship, students argue the need to negotiate the terms of their contract to protect themselves from foreseeable injuries and receive financial assistance in numerous ways.

College sport is big business. The Tribune Business News also reported that in 2012, the University of Texas led the nation with more than $163 million in revenue, and in the same year ESPN negotiated a 12-year deal to broadcast the new college football playoff for approximately $500 million each year. When you assess the amount of money made by universities and businesses based on the entertainment value provided by college athletes, this alone provides a strong reason to pay college athletes.  If college athletes do receive pay for play, the next question will be how to compensate them in a way that is fair and applicable to the formula for college financial aid.

For further information on this topic, please go to The Holmes Education Post (THEP). Also feel free to post your comments on THEP whether or not college athletes should be paid to participate in college sports and how it should be done.

 Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of five books, “Education Questions to be Answered,”  “Current Issues and Answers in Education,”  “How to Eradicate Hazing,” “Professional Career Paths” and “Your Answers to Education Questions.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper.  Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected].



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