The Mission of Education

A new report issued by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has found that colleges are increasing spending on sports faster than on academics. Spending on instruction, research and public service declined or stayed flat at most colleges and universities rapidly increased their spending on sports, according to the report released by the American Association of University

The report is believed to be the first that also compares educational spending and athletic spending, over time, at Division II and III schools and at community colleges. Using data from the United States Department of Education, the N.C.A.A., and its own surveys, the association paints a sobering picture in its report, titled “Losing Focus,” of a sector in which the growth in educational spending trails far behind that of athletic spending — especially at community colleges and Division II and III institutions.

From 2004 to 2011, community colleges’ inflation-adjusted educational spending — on instruction, public service and academic support — declined, while their athletic spending increased 35 percent per athlete, the report said. Overall spending per student grew 2.6 percent.

Inflation-adjusted athletic spending also increased, by 24.8 percent, at public four-year colleges in all divisions in those years, while spending on instruction and academic support remained nearly flat, and public service and research expenditures declined, the report said. Their overall spending per student grew 1.6 percent.

The report also said that the ranks of administrators and adjunct professors are growing many times faster than full-time tenured, or tenure-track faculty. Faculty salaries increased 2.4 percent last year, on average, while top administrators received large raises.

Sports play a role in schools.  They build leadership, school morale and a number of other things. But the question is whether the mission of schools, all schools, not just colleges should be focused on sports and not academics.  I have been in a number of schools across the United States, Canada, South America and Europe and have seen trophy cases in the lobbies of these schools filled with sports awards.  In a few cases, I have seen trophy cases filled with academic achievement awards. I do not think that the sports trophy cases need to be removed.  Rather I believe that the academic achievement cases need to be added. 

“What gets recognized gets rewarded.”