At Many Top Public Universities, Intercollegiate Sports Come at an Academic Price

Ann McClure's picture

Public colleges and universities that compete in N.C.A.A. Division I sports spend three to six times as much on each athlete as they do to educate each of their students, according to a new report by the Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research.

“Participation in intercollegiate athletics in the United States comes with a hefty price tag, one that is usually paid in part by students and institutions,” said Donna Desrochers, the author of the report. “Public institutions with Division I athletic programs have continued to invest significant resources in athletics, even as academic budgets were under strain during the recent recession.”

Between 2005 and 2010, on a per-capita basis, the report found, athletic costs increased at least twice as fast as academic spending at institutions with top-tier athletic programs.

“The Delta report confirms what a lot of college presidents have long feared: that intercollegiate athletics has become a financial arms race,” said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education. “Sooner or later, the increases will be unsustainable. I thought we would reach that point a decade ago, but it shows no sign of slowing down.”

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