Report: U.S. colleges spending more on sports, less on academics

Posted Apr 7, 2014 by Martin Laine
Forget the image of college campuses as enclaves of instruction and research. Figures show rapidly increasing spending on athletic programs, along with swelling the ranks of administrators and their salaries.
A woman walks through the Old Campus at Yale University in New Haven  Connecticut
A woman walks through the Old Campus at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut
With permission by Reuters / Michelle McLoughlin
These findings are part of the report “Losing Focus” released today by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The data is based on information from the U.S. Dept. of Education and the NCAA.
“Increasingly, institutions of higher education have lost their focus on the academic activities at the core of their mission,” the report states.
While much has been written about the growth of athletics spending at Division I schools, this report also looks at Div. II and III schools and community colleges, where the situation is even worse.
At community colleges, spending on instruction, public service, and academic support, while spending per athelete increased by 35 percent. One reason, the report suggests, is that more community colleges are establishing or expanding sports programs to attract more students.
During the period 2004 to 2011, athletics spending at public four-year public colleges in all divisions increased by 24.8 percent, while funding for research declined and spending on instruction remained flat.
The report also looked at the continuing phenomenon of “administrative bloat.”
According to the report, the number of full-time, nonfaculty professional positions increased by 369 percent over a 35-year period. Meanwhile, full-time tenured faculty positions increased by just 23 percent over that same period, while part-time faculty positions increased by 286 percent, non-tenure track positions by 256 percent, and graduate student employees by 123 percent.
“Spending on administrative overhead continues to draw funding away from academic programs, and the proliferation of new administrative and support positions has continued unabated,” the report concludes.
There are dissenting voices, to be sure.
“This comes from the American Association of University Professors, which has a vested interest in finding that too little money is going to faculty and too much to sports and administration,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, made up of higher education administrators, according to an article in the New York Times.
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