How Poor Students Subsidize Unworthy College Sports

According to research cited in a commentary by Richard Vedder in Bloomberg News, student fees to support athletics in the 2010-11 academic year totaled more than $2 billion to the 227 NCAA Division I public institutions.

Research by Jeff Smith at the University of South Carolina Upstate, showed student fees, which can exceed $1,000 a year, are often itemized as a “student activity” or “general” expense.

The commentary compares student fees for athletics to that of a “regressive tax” — more challenging to pay for lower-income students than for the more affluent, who are able to attend schools where athletic fees are lower. For the six public schools in the Big South conference, Smith’s research showed that the average athletic fee was $1,512, about 25 times more than the average $61 paid by students at the Big Ten conference schools. Other research cited indicates that “schools belonging to the five conferences with the highest athletic fees, more than 60 percent of the students received federal loans, and more than 36 percent received Pell grants. By comparison, at schools belonging to the five conferences with the lowest fees, 41 percent of students received loans, and 23 percent had Pell grants.”

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