Your education is an investment in yourself – it is an asset that has been stressed throughout our lives that can be the key to a better, happier, and more prosperous life. Furthermore, students believe that the academic degree they are pursuing is supported by the institution they attend at the highest possible level.
However, students find that in certain cases this does not always true – sometimes a certain major, program, or department is afforded a higher financial value at an institution because the program plays to the strengths of a college or university.
One venue where public institutions of higher education have been heavily investing their financial support towards is college athletics. Recently, a report was released by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which is an organization dedicated to setting standards for higher education and to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education.
Using data from the US Department of Education and the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), the report found that from 2004 to 2011 inflation adjusted spending at public four-year colleges for athletic spending increased by 24.8% – while spending on classroom instruction, academic support, public service programs, and institutional research remained flat or declined.
Furthermore, at community colleges from 2004-2011 spending on athletic programs increased by 35% per athlete with stagnant or declining investments in academic programs.
Granted, the AAUP is an organization that seeks to promote the interests of faculty, professors, and higher education; therefore, there is a certain level of skepticism is required when examining these figures. However, the disproportionate increase in spending on athletic programs does raise a startling question for our education system: what exactly do we value in our educational experience and are we getting a good return on investment?
There is nothing inherently wrong with spending a college or university’s budget on athletic programs – college athletics can provide a positive venue for students to develop friendships and leadership skills.
However, a sense of proportionality and perspective must be maintained. The goal of higher education is for a student to become passionate about his or her field of study, to graduate from that institution to be able to be engaged in that profession, and create or do something of value in his or her field.
An institution should not heavily subsidize college athletics to the point where other academic, research, and public service programs are sacrificed to satisfy the short term desires of a “sports obsessed” culture in the United States.
The real real return on investment in higher education does not come from a football field, an ice arena, or basketball court – it comes from the laboratories, public policy programs, and research institutes that foster our future.