Education – A Few Things I Don’t “Get”

Earlier this week, the Salt Lake Tribune published a story about college athletic scholarships, and the story revealed something new to me. A full-ride athletic scholarship generally covers tuition, room and board, and books and fees, but most of these student athletes will now also receive something called a “cost-of-attendance” stipend. These stipends vary greatly from university to university within the “Power 5” conferences, but are designed to cover additional expenses such as travel to and from school, laundry, cell phones, wireless access and more. The figures published in the Tribune ranged from a high of $4,500 a school year at BYU to a low of $1,580 at USC [except the Gannet News Service lists USC’s COA at $4,151]. Some schools in the SEC are offering close to $6,000 a year for football scholarship cost-of-attendance stipends. That’s in addition to the opportunity for a college education, pretty much all expenses paid. Right now, on a national average basis, a college education is running $25,000 a year at major state universities [which is where most scholarship athletes are going]. In effect, these athletes will be paid over $100,000 for four years… and, if they apply themselves and graduate, they’ll also have a degree that should enhance their lifetime earnings even if they don’t have a career in professional athletics. What I don’t get is why universities are paying that kind of money when none of it goes back into academics or academic facilities.

I’ve also heard a great amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the cost of higher education by non-athletes. My wife’s university does offer music scholarships, and some are even full-tuition. The music program is good, but, admittedly, it’s not in the class of Julliard or Manhattan or some of the big-name music schools. Good students graduating from the university do get regularly accepted by solid graduate schools of music. But the percentage of students who audition for the program and are offered scholarships – and don’t even reply to the offer – astounds me. If they decide they don’t want to attend, that’s understandable. But not replying when all they have to do is check a box, either accepting or declining, and put the reply back in the envelope? It’s not only rude and ill-mannered, but it also just might deprive another student of the opportunity for a scholarship. Tell me all you want about the “concerned” nature of up-and-coming students, but the percentage of non-replying would-be students has gone up every year, even while scholarships have continued to keep pace with tuition. I don’t get this, either.

Then there’s the whole question of the need for higher education, and how to fund it. I understand that times are tight. I understand that state legislatures are under pressure to keep costs down, and that people costs are one of the largest components of running a university. What I don’t understand is why the number of administrative, non-academic employees at colleges and universities has more than doubled over the last thirty years, and has close to tripled at my wife’s university, while the real wages [adjusted for inflation] of university professors at state universities have often not kept up with inflation and why there are fewer and fewer tenure track faculty and why half of all university teaching slots are filled by part-time adjuncts. Strikes me that the students and the faculty are getting screwed, and the bureaucrats are getting fat. Why most Americans don’t see this either, I don’t get.

9 thoughts on “Education – A Few Things I Don’t “Get””

  1. Plovdiv says:

    Same here in the UK. Particularly with the explosion of managerial positions in the NHS.

  2. Thom says:

    It almost sounds like you’ve been reading Glenn Harlan Reynolds’ book “The New School.” The cost of athletics programs and rising administrative head-count and costs are just two of the aspects he calls out as evidence we’re headed for a serious educational crisis.

    1. I’ve not read the book, or even reviews, but I’ve been saying/writing similar things for years. So have a large number of university professors. All of us have been largely ignored by the public and the politicians.

  3. Corwin says:

    Of course you’ve been ignored; you don’t play football! 😉

  4. Grey says:

    Has legitimate research been done on the investment vs. return on school athletic programs? The common defense is that universities make more than they spend.

    In terms of tenure track professors being replaced by adjuncts, wage stagnation and etc., I’m not sure this is different than the rest of America. I mean, it sure sounds familiar: The hard-to-fire workers with good benefits packages – i.e., union members – are being replaced with at-will employees, and wages have stagnated.

    1. According to the NCAA itself, only two dozen college level athletic programs have revenues in excess of expenditures. The remainder spend more than they obtain in revenues.

      1. Grey says:

        That’s interesting. Does it include alumni donations though or is it just TV rights, beer sales, and licensing revenue? The line as it was sold to me (I could care less about college sports) was that the programs generate alumni donations and that at the end of the day when everything is mixed in, the balance sheets are positive.

  5. Chris says:

    I don’t necessarily agree with the scholarships, but I do understand why they are now offering “cost of attendance” stipends as well. The rules the NCAA puts on athletes are very onerous. They are basically not allowed to have a job (it could be considered a “gift” from a booster), but they still have to buy clothes, transportation, and other things. Receiving any of those things for free can get the school sanctioned and cause the student to lose their scholarship.

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