Short Film Says Sports Programs Are Driving Up Tuition Prices


A new documentary short is delving into the world of sports, specifically looking into the amount of money spent on athletics by colleges and universities while tuition prices continue to rise and faculty positions begin to fade away.

The 2-minute video, titled “The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Future,” argues that 82% of college football programs are actually losing an average of $11 million each year, despite popular belief on the subject.  At the same time, universities are continuing to spend almost seven times on athletics as they do on academics.  According to the film, universities spend almost $92,000 per student athlete, yet they spend only $13,600 per student on education.

At the same time, tuition prices have almost doubled since 2000, leaving around 70% of students with an average student loan debt totaling $27,900, writes Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet.

“There’s this common consensus that athletics bring money to the school, and its manifestation in the public keeps us from actually doing the math,” Vanessa Baden Kelly, a spokeswoman for Brave New Films, tells The Christian Science Monitor.

In one example, researchers for the documentary discovered that Utah State University had spent $25 million on their athletics department last year, but only earned $11 million from sporting events.  The additional $14 million in cost came from money brought in through tuition and tax subsidies.  A similar situation was found at Kent State where 54% of the athletics budget came from student costs.

A portion of that money is spent on coaches, who often earn salaries of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year – and in some cases as much as $1 million or more while academic programs are cut and faculty members are laid off.

While Baden Kelly does say the top 20 or 30 schools have profitable sports programs, people tend to forget about the thousands of schools below them that are losing money, writes Cathaleen Chen for Christian Science Monitor.

According to Brave New Foundation filmmaker Robert Greenwald, schools need to reallocate funds from other programs in order to put enough money into their athletic programs.

“At many universities, this means cutting faculty and entire degree programs,” Greenwald writes. “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.”

Kelly says it is situations like that occurring among adjunct faculty that inspired the creation of the film, which is part of a series on the student debt crisis.

“The most important finding [in the film] is the fact that this huge debt crisis that’s coming out of institutions of higher learning can be curbed in many ways that we don’t realize,” Kelly says.