We are in a college debt crisis. Almost 70 percent of college students graduate with approximately $30,000 in college debt. In 1992, it was one-third of that average. Why has the cost and burden of debt for higher education risen so dramatically in just over 20 years? One of the answers is college athletics, namely football. The new short above by Brave New Films entitled The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education explains just how that happens.
Tuition to state universities across the nation has risen, on average, about 30 percent since 2000 alone. But an even more disturbing trend emerges when the data is looked at closely. Most states with strong college football traditions and programs have increased tuition, on average, by 55percent with some as high 65 percent. The trend is in direct correlation to increases in student fees that go directly to the athletic departments.
At places like Ohio University, athletic fees run students $48 a credit hour. That means that a typical student will use almost $6000 of financial aid or scholarships to pay for the athletic programs at their school. That's two thirds of what their entire college debt would have been 20 years ago.
But the problem becomes even more convoluted when faculty budgets and school programs are added into the equation. To continue to fund such high-price athletic programs, school budgets have to be balanced out somewhere. At many universities, this means cutting faculty and entire degree programs. University of Akron recently cut 215 jobs and $40 million dollars from their budget. But their tuition did not go down. Instead, they signed Terry Bowden, head coach of their football program, to a $2 million dollar contract. That is $400,000 a year. Compare that to the average $25,000 salary of an adjunct professor and it begins to get fuzzy as to whether colleges are still institutions of higher learning, or professional sporting arenas.
Critics would argue that athletic programs bring so much to the school, that it is worth the money the students pay. But there is simply is no evidence behind that. Over 80 percent of collegiate athletic departments actually lose $11 million dollars or more for their universities yearly. And contrary to critics, who believe licensing and boosters bring in the majority of funds for the department, most big football programs see over half of their budget come from student fees. The ones who entice students to come because of their strong tradition of football? Many of those see over 70 percent of their income paid for by student credit hours. All the massive programs do is create die-hard fans that want to come to the school, and in turn are used to make the programs even more massive...not to bring more money to academics.
The numbers for this crisis are daunting. One of America's favorite pastimes is essentially draining the lifeblood and the future wealth out of the next generation and few realize it. What's worse, we are watching yet another round of the corporatization of American colleges and universities and the toll it's taking on the country and excusing it as tradition. If we don't stop this gross misuse of student fees and the student debt crisis, the only tradition our country will know is that of being in poverty if you chose to get a college education. Watch the Brave New Films new short The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education. Share it with your friends, colleagues, and college-age children. Our alma mater's were not created for us to provide their financial future, but to secure a financial future for their students.
Follow Robert Greenwald on Twitter: www.twitter.com/robertgreenwald
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