Education has always played an important role in my life.
I had the opportunity to attend a great university and major in something that gave me joy, although my history major doesn't serve me well in this economy.
Last week I wrote about the punishment the NCAA handed down to Penn State. I was concerned about the scholarships that would be affected through the punishment and how it could potentially affect scholarships in other athletic departments. Each year the NCCA rewards more than $2 billion in athletic scholarships to Division I, II, and III schools. These scholarships afford many athletes to play a sport they love while simultaneously receiving an higher education.
However, I started to question the reliance schools have on the football and basketball programs. To think that punishing one sport could affect so many at the university made me realize schools have too much of a dependence on athletics, in general. How can we claim that education is important to our nation when it is often inaccessible to those who want and need it?
On average college graduates will have $21,000 in student loans. With the average job only paying less than $27,000 a year, to recent graduates, such debt can be overwhelming to many.
I believe sports can provide good morale to a university. It unites the community. It also provides opportunities to students who may have never attended college. Not every student-athlete just goes to school to play a sport. Less than 5% of college athletes turn pro and go on into other respective careers.
However, too much of a university’s morale is dependent on the sports programs (specifically, football and basketball). If the team loses a bowl game or fails to make it the Final Four, one can feel a cloud of despair covering the campus. If a team wins a national championship, you won’t stop hearing about it for weeks. Looking back on it, does it really matter at the end of the day if a team wins or loses?
In fact, it does. Like I have written previously, big team sports pay for many things at a university. If the team doesn’t do well, it can in fact end up costing the school a lot of money. New Mexico State University needed a 70% subsidy in 2009-2010 because the Aggie football program hadn’t gone to a bowl game in 51 years.
Budget cuts in education have highlighted just how little we value higher education. Most recently, the University of Florida eliminated the computer science department but increased the athletic budget. In a day and age when technology companies are growing everyday, one would think that the computer science department would hold some value. Right?
Playing golf at the university did not add any value to the school. I cost the school money even though private donors at the university helped pay for my scholarship. The more I begin to think about it, the more I realize just how insanely expensive school is and how inaccessible it is to most.
I believe higher education should not run someone into a sea of debt. I believe that education is a right, not a privilege. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to education.” But do we really put our money where our mouth is on this issue?
I feel grateful that I got to play golf in college and simultaneously pay for school. Thinking about the fact that I could have graduated with at least $40,000 in debt if I did not get a scholarship frightens me. So why are we putting so much value on sports at universities when most people can’t afford to pay tuition?
Education is not only a human right, it opens the world to the mind of those willing to receive it. If you give someone the opportunity to open his or her mind and to better their lives, they will take the opportunity. It is not enough that we tell people that can dream as big as they want, but never give them the tools they need to make their dreams a reality. There is nothing wrong with having sports in universities; however, when a sports team can make or break a university’s budget, that’s when it is time reevaluate what values really matter at an institution meant for higher learning.
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