On December 15th of 2012, my voice quivered with enthusiasm as I dialed my mother’s cell phone number, anxious to share the news. At the first sound of her voice on the other end of the line, I shouted, “I just received an acceptance letter from Georgetown University!” Georgetown topped my list of schools I had hoped to attend, and it was for this reason that her voice cracked in an attempt to hold back tears of pride. Thus, as my senior year ticked closer to its end, the excitement regarding my prospects of attending Georgetown grew by the day.
That excitement, however, came crashing down on March 1st of the following year, when a letter from Georgetown’s financial aid office revealed that attending the university would cost upwards of $58,000, a number which included a “generous” $3,000 in financial aid. The decision to erase Georgetown from my university considerations required very little discussion, for I, like so many other college applicants, had fallen prey to the inflated tuition prices of colleges across the country. With my dreams dashed by the steep costs, I experienced a medley of emotions that ranged from anger to disappointment to determination. It was this very determination that led me to consider the many millions of my peers who were also deterred by such massive dollar amounts. Surely steps can be taken to prevent future generations from facing such a devastating hindrance, but where can we find this fiscal relief?
Before constructing an adequate solution, it is important to understand the causes behind inflated tuitions, which have jumped by 1,120 percent over the past 30 years (Spellings). Dylan Matthews cites two reasons for the drastic increases. First, he claims that college spending has spiked, and families are being gouged in order to pay the bills. He also mentions a reduction in financial support from the government which has forced colleges to raise the necessary funds in a new manner; most choose to charge the families (Matthews 1). To require families to cover the costs of a college’s operations and improvements certainly seems unfair when they have no say in what operations occur. Nevertheless, society’s emphasis on the importance of a college education will never allow the demand for secondary learning to diminish. Regardless of the price, families will pay. Unfortunately, payment often occurs in the form of loans – borrowed by both students and parents – that perpetuate the problem of high tuition.
So how can colleges reduce the burden on families in order to provide the best quality “product” at an affordable price? It’s simple: follow the money! For the 2011 and 2012 school year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reported revenue of $871.6 million. This sum includes contributions from deals with major broadcasting networks as well as the income from its many sporting events, of which the most profitable are major college football games. To be fair, this money is dispersed throughout the collegiate system; the majority is given to Division I member schools, while the remainder is dispersed among other divisions as well as the organizational staff of the NCAA (“Finances”). However, it certainly seems as if a small fraction of the NCAA’s hundreds of millions of dollars could be spent in a more productive manner which would benefit non-student-athlete undergraduates. By simply adding one more division – aptly titled “academic distributions,” perhaps – to its expenses, the NCAA could play a role in dramatically downsizing college tuition.
The best revenue source from which funds can be drawn in order to reduce tuition is the NCAA’s most profitable sport: football. In order to put a strong football program’s impact on a college’s economy into perspective, Forbes ranked the top ten most valuable college football teams. Combined, the ten teams are estimated to be worth $997 million (Smith). Despite these monstrous numbers, college tuition continues to increase. A readjustment of spending by the NCAA and football programs, whose funds come from the NCAA, could produce a more appropriate price tag. Both of these entities spend millions of dollars just in payroll, which is an unnecessary use of funds and takes away from what should be a university’s priority: academics.
In regards to the NCAA, it seems contradictory for its leaders to receive such massive salaries when the president himself was quoted as saying, “Our mission is to be an integral part of higher education and to focus on the development of our student-athletes” (Emmert). It is clear that the NCAA wants to contribute to the academic aspect of colleges, which should include affordability for all students. Yet high-ranking executives within the association take home hundreds of thousands of dollars that instead could be directed towards reducing tuition. For example, this past summer, USA Today reported that “NCAA President Mark Emmert was credited with nearly $1.7 million in compensation during the 2011 calendar year” (Berkowitz). In an era when parents and students are forking over insanely large amounts of money, it would seem that a small cut in the pay of the president of the NCAA could certainly help cover a small fraction of a college’s spending, thereby decreasing its tuition. A few hundred thousand dollars excised from Emmert’s pay may not cause a significant drop in tuition, but similar cuts among most NCAA officials could begin to reduce tuition.
The real imbalance, however, lies in the hands of the coaches, whose salaries are supported by funds from the NCAA. Annually, the NCAA distributes around sixty percent of its revenue to Division I schools to be applied directly to its athletic department (“Finances”). These funds cover everything from scholarships for student athletes to equipment to a coach’s pay. Those coaches employed by schools with dominant football programs receive salaries that resemble the payout of a winning lottery ticket. Consider Nick Saban, head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, who receives over five million dollars yearly in pay from the school. His rival, LSU head coach Les Miles, lags behind with a meager salary of over $3.5 million (“College”). Again, these salaries are paid for by NCAA funds granted to each school.
I ask, is the NCAA truly fulfilling its role as “an integral part of higher education” when coaches and executives are swimming in millions of dollars? Inside Higher Ed conducted a study in which it analyzed the rates at which coaches’ salaries rose and compared them to the rates at which faculty salaries rose between the years of 2005 and 2011. Its results proved that across every major football conference, coaches’ salaries were increasing at rates of at least 46%, while. the growth rates of professors’ salaries hovered below 20%. The largest distinction appeared in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), arguably college football’s most dominant conference. While faculty members saw their salaries grow at a rate of 16%, the salaries of its coaches increased by 129% (Grasgreen). These numbers indicate that the NCAA is allowing—and even promoting—colleges to prioritize their athletic successes over the original purpose of college: an education.
With these salaries in mind, one can begin to ponder a solution to the problem of inflated tuition. By limiting the salaries of both executives and coaches, millions of dollars would be left undistributed, and these dollars could be added to the NCAA’s “academic distributions” expense. One way to limit said salaries would be through a new NCAA law, one that caps the salaries of executives and coaches or bases them on a university’s devotion to academic scholarships. The millions of dollars created by such a law could then be distributed among colleges specifically for the purpose of covering the costs of colleges’ operations, which would therefore decrease tuition. One who opposes such a law could argue that cutting the salaries of coaches and executives would take away their motivation to develop young men and women through sports. My counterargument accepts that salaries would most likely remain in the millions of dollars and recognizes that coaches and executives also receive pay through endorsements and broadcast appearances. Although their salaries may decrease, they would be personally contributing to the NCAA’s mission of providing a secondary education to as many aspiring students as possible.
The devotion of schools to athletic success has left many students in the dust. I doubt that the NCAA or any university will deny that its purpose is to provide the highest quality education to its students at an affordable price. Yet the NCAA and its many schools seem to have lost touch with the importance of an affordable education. Although not every university can display the wealth of a strong football program, the NCAA should distribute its funds in a manner that improves the affordability of a college. It will require sacrifices by many, but those who strive to embody the goals of the NCAA and of a university recognize that such sacrifice is a necessary endeavor. With commitment from coaches and executives, students will no longer face the devastating news that one letter from Georgetown presented to me.
Berkowitz, Steve. “Emmert made $1.7 million, according to NCAA tax return.” USA Today. Gannet, 14 Jul. 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.
“College Football Coaches Salaries Database.” USA Today. Gannett, 1 Jul. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.
Dorfman, Jeffrey. “There’s No College Tuition ‘Bubble’: College Education Is Underpriced.” Forbes. Forbes.com, 12 Sep. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
Emmert, Mark. Office of the President: On the Mark. NCAA, 5 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.
“Finances.” NCAA. National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2013. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
Grasgreen, Allie. “Disproportionate Paychecks.” Inside Higher Ed. n.p., 08 May 2013. Web. 3 Nov 2013.
Matthews, Dylan. “The Tuition is Too Damn High, Part III — The three reasons tuition is rising.” Wonkblog. (28 Aug. 2013): 1. The Washington Post. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.
Spellings, Margaret. Interview by Gerri Willis. What is causing the rise in college tuition? Fox News, 2013. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
Smith, Chris. “College Football’s Most Valuable Teams.” Forbes. Forbes.com, 19 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Nov 2013.