This is one helluva story from the University of Cincinnati’s investigative reporting staff (h/t David Hale).
Let’s just say there’s a bit of a disconnect between students and administrators:
Kevin Leugers pays the University of Cincinnati to provide him with a quality education.
The second-year student majoring in marketing and philosophy had no idea officials had quietly funneled tens of millions of dollars from students to the athletic department in recent years to cover the difference between revenue and expenses.
“It seems to be a corruption of education, in all honesty,” says Leugers, a University Honors Program student and Kolodzik Business Scholar. “Athletics is being given priority over education, over the professors, over the students. I just think that’s wrong.”
In 2013, UC officials provided the athletic department with a $21.75 million subsidy, records show, using student fees and money from the school’s general fund, which is primarily funded by tuition. The total subsidy amounts to $1,024 out of the pocket of every full-time undergraduate student on UC’s main campus. The four-year price tag costs each student more than $4,000.
The money represents 20 percent of the $20,000 Leugers plans to borrow to finance his education.
The athletic department’s four-year hidden tax may very well exceed $4,000 per student. In 2014 the subsidy rose to more than $27 million, a 25-percent increase.
Since 2007, University of Cincinnati trustees and administrators have used more than $127 million in student fees and general fund money to subsidize deficits in the athletic department, according to UC’s NCAA Revenue & Expense reports.
Thomas Humes, UC’s board chair and a trustee since 2007, says the $127 million sports subsidy is a necessity to keep pace with other programs.
“I think it is a requirement,” says Humes, a developer and former UC administrator.
Humes says sports are “a good investment for the university as a whole” and that the board decided every dollar given to the athletic department was money well spent.
“There has been a decision that whatever that investment number is that it is a positive investment for the university,” he says. “I don’t view it as a concern.”
It’s easy not to be concerned when you’re not the one being charged, dude.
What’s sad about this isn’t that schools who aren’t among the haves are struggling to keep up with those who are – if charging students fees is what you think you have to do, so be it – it’s hiding the truth from students because you know they’re not likely to agree with your approach. (Nice touch by the UC president refusing to be interviewed for the article.)
And what’s maddening about this is that the same people who will piously bray about the academic mission they purport to serve are the same ones who, well, pull this bullshit:
Like UC, most Ohio public universities have an open checkbook for sports and a tightfisted approach to academic spending. For example:
• Over the past decade, annual sports spending — and subsidies — at the University of Akron more than doubled. During these years, students paid more than $130 million in athletic fees, records show. In 2014, Akron Athletic Director Tom Wistrcill used $13,000 to purchase bobble-head likenesses of then-President Luis Proenza to express his appreciation to the president for having “ensured that the university provides our student athletes and coaches with first class facilities.” Meanwhile, trustees have raised tuition and slashed academic spending, including the elimination of more than 100 jobs. Wistrcill told CityBeat the university is giving students what they want. “We get institutional support both from the students and from the campus to make our budget work, and we feel like we provide a great part of the student experience to the non-athletes,” he said.
• Miami University is the most expensive four-year public college in the nation, according to a 2014 U.S. Department of Education report. One reason: sports subsidies. In 2013, each full-time undergraduate student provided the athletic department with $1,266, the highest subsidy among Ohio’s eight largest FBS public schools. That same year, the university’s Board of Trustees and President David Hodge were so pleased with the athletic department’s performance they gave Athletic Director David Sayler a five-year extension.
Sayler declined comment for this story. While annual athletic spending increased 44 percent over the past decade, the president and trustees made $50 million in budget cuts outside athletics. The Knight Commission database shows that between 2005 and 2013, inflation-adjusted academic spending — including faculty salaries, department research and student services — for each full-time undergraduate dropped 6 percent at Miami University, a school that advertises itself as “Ohio’s Public Ivy.” Alexa Brown, a third-year art education student, says officials should back up their slogan with action: “If we’re trying to be Ivy League, we should focus more on academics rather than trying to be like the Big Ten.”
• At Bowling Green State University, each full-time undergraduate student paid almost $1,000 to subsidize sports in 2013. Since then, the BGSU Board of Trustees has cut 130 faculty jobs, according to David Jackson, an associate professor of political science and president of the BGSU Faculty Association. The trustees did significantly raise funding in one area ostensibly related to academics: They increased President Mary Ellen Mazey’s compensation 40 percent to $600,149, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“University administrators tend to take care of themselves and make sure that they are very well paid,” Jackson says.
You can sum it up with these two charts, the first on education spending:
and the one that follows, showing athletic subsidies at the same schools, with Cincinnati’s growing almost four-fold over the same period.
The irony here is comparing Jim Delany’s threat about taking the Big Ten down to Division III if student-athletes receive compensation with the reality suggested by these numbers; it looks like there are already plenty of public universities in Ohio that could (and should) make that move. And the even bigger irony is that damned market:
Freeing students from being forced to pay for intercollegiate athletics is one reason Carolyn Gallo chose Ohio State.
“I definitely looked into it,” says Gallo, now a third-year student majoring in biology. “I had heard of schools charging ridiculous amounts for their athletic programs and I wanted a university where my money was going where I wanted it to — academics.”
It’s a strange world we live in where the adults have their priorities more out of whack than the kids do. Read the whole thing.