Are March Madness (And College Sports) Bad for Higher Education?

New York University Professor Jonathan Zimmerman argues that college sports hurts higher education because schools overspend on athletes and lower admissions standards:

Colleges in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the most competitive of the Division I programs – spent an average of nearly $92,000 per athlete in 2010, according to a January study by the American Institutes for Research. For the student population at large, the average per capita spending was less than $14,000.

He says evidence now shows this rarely leads to higher sustained alumni giving and that few schools make back the investment through TV deals:

True, some programs bring in rich revenues via TV contracts, ticket sales, and concessions. But fewer than one-quarter of FBS programs generate more money than they spend. The others rely on institutional subsidies and student fees to keep their sports teams going.

What’s more, Zimmerman argues, schools lower admissions standards. In fact, the impact on admissions is far greater for athletes than through affirmative action for minorities.

While affirmative action for minorities continues to cause controversy across our higher education system (they have an 18 to 24 percent advantage in admissions), almost nobody objects to the much greater affirmative action that we grant to athletes.

One other issue Zimmerman doesn’t mention. With colleges taking more and more foreign students, colleges have ever fewer slots for non-Athlete Americans. Read the whole piece here