Spending per Student

What do schools spend per student vs. per student-athlete?

College sports are big business, but just how big? In the SEC, on average, schools spend 12 times as much per individual athlete as they do per individual student. Not on the athletes, of course, just around them. There are priorities here. And for most schools, athletic revenue doesn’t come close to covering these expenses, requiring universities to dip into general funds to keep their sports programs humming.

As university presidents meet in Texas for their annual conference, the Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research today released a study entitled Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending: Who Wins? That study can be found below, but the shortest answer is: the coaches.

These are the figures that everyone’s going to be talking about: how much the athletic conferences spend on their athletes versus their students. (A note on the data. Figures are from 2010, the last year available. Numbers are conference averages and not broken down by individual institutions. Only public universities’ spending is available.)

This is a good graph telling an important story:

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  • You said, “This is a good graph telling an important story:” It’s a nice table. It’s not a graph. I wish it were. That way it would be more quickly and easily comprehended.

    On the other hand, it’s easy to see why the SEC dominates in sports rather than academics. Glad I got my degree from a Big 10 school.

  • Eric

    I love your books, but no T.V. Network is going to pay to broadcast your lectures, sermons, or readings to the tune of billions of dollars. Major college sports generate huge T.V. contracts for football and basketball and that money is used to fund much of athletic departments’ budget. A lot of the major schools have athletic funds much like 501c3’s that cover all the expenses of the athletic department. So a better study would be to have a ratio of money generated vs. spent on students comparing academics vs. athletics. And when that is done, I would wonder why academic programs like Harvard spend so little of their billion dollar endowments on their student and academic personnel and programs. Also schools like Carthage in the CCIW use their athletic programs to increase enrollment of tuition paying students but I doubt that gets credited to the athletics department spending per athlete.

  • Robin

    Two things related to Eric’s point…

    1. Admissions increase with Athletic success. Butler had an increase near 100% in applications after appearing in the final four. The same was true in the 90’s when UK won the national title twice.

    2. At several schools athletics directly funds academics. At my alma mater, the University of Kentucky, the athletic department is underwriting about $100 M in academic buildings. Even aside from big capital projects the athletic department is 100% self-funded and contributes a couple million dollars to the University general fund annually.