A USA Today analysis of college athletics finances found an increased use of subsidies (financial support from student fees, school, or state government) to support college athletics programs, despite a climate of tight budgets throughout higher education.
The report by USA Today found only 23 of 228 athletics departments at NCAA Division I public schools generated enough money on their own to cover their expenses in 2012. All 23 of the self-sufficient programs are from the conferences whose football champions automatically qualify for the Bowl Championship Series; these conferences raise the greatest revenues. Of that group, 16 also received some type of subsidy — and 10 of those 16 athletics departments received more subsidy money in 2012 than they did in 2011.
According to the USA Today report, subsidies for all of Division I athletics rose by nearly $200 million from 2011 to 2012. This increase is the greatest year-over-year dollar increase in the subsidy total since USA Today began collecting athletics finance information, beginning with the 2004-2005 academic year.
Athletics departments getting subsidy money when they are self-sufficient “raises a major question about institutions, which are always trying to play catch-up in the athletic realm, relying on institutional and government subsidies and student fees to make ends meet at a time when we have very limited resources,” says Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “And that raises questions as to whether institutions are paying attention to their primary purpose, which is education.”