“I believe the leadership in the NCAA finally sort of acknowledges that so that’s probably a big step in that direction.”
The old argument was that a scholarship provided enough benefit. And while there is wide variation, depending on the college and major, there is little doubt among those who study the issue that a bachelor’s degree is a huge economic boon, even for those who have to borrow to pay for it.
In a 2011 report, Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce calculated a worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn on average $2.3 million over a lifetime. That’s roughly $500,000 more than associate’s degree-holders, $700,000 more than those with some college but no degree, and $1 million more than those with just a high school diploma.
According to the latest NCAA statistics, 70 percent of football players in the top division graduated within six years. The NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate takes into account transfers and athletes who leave in good academic standing.
In the 11 years that GSR data have been collected, the rate for football players in the top division has increased by 7 percentage points — so more players are getting the benefit of a college degree.
The problem is scholarship rules have lagged behind the times, said Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott, now in his fourth year in the job. His conference, like most of the major ones, supports a stipend.
“The scholarship rules don’t allow you to cover the full cost of attendance,” he said. “Doesn’t cover things like miscellaneous meals, trips home, clothes and other things. For me there has been a gap.
“This does not cross the philosophical Rubicon of paying players.”
Players, naturally, agree.
“It kind of goes both ways,” said Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, whose father, Sal, is a college football coach and former NFL player. “A lot of people would say we don’t deserve it because we already get enough as college kids that just happen to play a sport. A lot of people don’t realize all the work that goes into all the stuff that we have to do throughout the day.