The University of Alabama announced this morning it will not hold classes Jan. 6-8
because of faculty, staff and students who want to make the trip to
Pasadena, Calif., for the Crimson Tide's appearance in the BCS national
championship game against Texas.
does not mean that it values athletics over academics in the aggregate. It just values it at the margin (i.e. at this particular moment for this particular).
Partly as a consequence of the substantial increase in the college wage
premium since 1980, a much higher fraction of high school graduates
enter college today than they did a quarter century ago. However, the
rise in the fraction of high school graduates attending college has not
been met by a proportional increase in the fraction who finish.
Comparing two cohorts from the high school classes of 1972 and 1992, we
show eight-year college completion rates declined nationally, and this
decline is most pronounced amongst men beginning college at
less-selective public 4-year schools and amongst students starting at
community colleges. We decompose the observed changes in completion
rates into the component due to changes in the preparedness of entering
students and the component due to collegiate characteristics, including
type of institution and resources per student. We find that, while both
factors play a role, it is the collegiate characteristics that are more
important. A central contribution of this analysis is to show the
importance of the supply-side of the higher education in explaining
changes in college completion.
The emphasis is mine. Not only are men a minority on many college campuses, many aren't finishing when they do start.
Here's an NCAA database on the athlete graduation rates released in 2009. Here are links to past reports. Both were linked to in this USA Today article on graduation rates. USA continues to be an excellent source for raw data and links to other data. If any of my readers have been involved in gathering this data, thanks!
Fallacy of composition: whatever is true for the individual is also true for the whole. Example: if I stand at a football game, I get a better view if I'm the only one who stands up. If everyone stands up*, my view is probably no better or, quite possibly, worse.
The economic model for major college
athletics is collapsing like an overmatched offensive line under a
relentless blitz. That's the unmistakable message from a recent survey
of university presidents.
The survey for the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics found
that less than a quarter of 95 presidents at universities with the
largest sports programs believe the status quo is financially
sustainable. The presidents at these Division I-A schools fingered
exorbitant salaries for football and basketball coaches as the main
The most recent NCAA
study on the finances of the 119 Division I-A athletics programs found
that only 25 generated surpluses in the 2008 budget year, and 94 ran
deficits that had to be covered from other sources. For every school
like the University of Florida, whose marquee teams generate big bucks, there were almost four bleeding money.
We need to be careful when interpreting the data from which we draw conclusions on the health of college sports programs. A huge problem is on the accounting side of the ledger where the accounting practices of schools lead to misleading tallies on costs and revenues.
First, consider the revenue side of the ledger. Sales of souvenirs, clothing, etc. are often credited to the university as a whole even if the sales were made as a result of the school having, say, a football team. In a perfect world, we'd be able to tell if a sale of a shirt with a school logo on it was due to the school itself or its athletic program.
There are also problems on the cost side of the accounting reports. Schools will usually use the "face value" of tuition when it tallies up the value of its scholarships to deduct from its income statements. But the true cost of having an athlete on scholarship is the marginal, or added cost, of having the athlete on campus. If classes are not at capacity, the added cost of having one more athlete on campus is nowhere near full tuition. For instance, if I teach a my Sports Economic class and there is an open seat in my class, then having an athlete (or any other student for that matter) take that class adds nothing to the cost of instruction from the university's stand point. Added across an entire program or across the entire athletic department, and the scholarship cost of programs are likely much less than reported.
To complicate things even further, keep in mind that college athletic departments are non-profits, which means that for tax reasons, they have to spend what they take in in revenue. Then there is Title IX which places further restrictions on how athletic departments can divide up their resources.
So, in short, we have to take the revenue and cost measures with a grain of salt for these reasons*.
Still, that doesn't stop the Sentinel from recommending slashing coach salaries via collusion.
A panel from the Knight Commission plans to recommend seven cost-saving
changes for university athletics programs to the NCAA. Those include
cutbacks in season lengths and team travel. But the panel is ignoring
the middle linebacker in the room: sky-high coaching salaries.
It's ironic that university presidents would cite salaries for coaches
as the biggest problem, yet do nothing about it. Until they declare a
truce in their bidding war, athletics programs will be on shaky ground.
Apparently the salary cap on the athletes isn't good enough for them. Now let's bring in collusion to control coach salaries.
What the Sentinel sees as a problem will not go away because of the intense demand fans have for football and men's basketball. It is this demand that is the underlying driving force that causes colleges and universities to do what they do in their athletic programs. Fan demand for sports brings the revenues that then go to paying the expenditures for resources that produce the "good" that is college sports.
Artificially controlling coaching salaries does not alter the underlying demand fans have for a given sport and only drives athletic department personnel to search for different ways to compete for coaching talent.
Let's not forget that MLB teams got busted for this type of collusion not once, not twice, but three times in the late 1980's. The law doesn't always look favorably on collusion.
Moreover, this call for collusion to control coaching salaries is an assault on economic freedom. Basically the Sentinel is telling coaches that they can't be paid what they are worth and it tells coaches and colleges that they cannot contract with whom they desire at the terms they wish. This sort of thing should not happen in a free society.
The only way to control salaries in the long term is to control the revenue that flows to colleges because of their athletic programs. But it is human nature to accept revenues when they are being dangled in front of you, so this is a next-to-impossible pipe dream.
Here's the link. Here are two tidbits from the article.
The university used to help pay part of the salaries of student
employees through federal work-study, but the school ended that
practice this year to give students a better taste of how it's done in
the real world.
Students have to sell their shares in the business before they
graduate. The more successful businesses are often bought by
underclassmen. Other companies — such as a video store and a care
packages company — have died out over the years as the Internet has
made their business models less viable.
The article notes that one of the businesses still in operation has been around since 1977. It all sounds like an excellent practical experience for students.
Want better schools? Hire better teachers:
This election marks a new beginning. Improving our schools may be the
most important way that President-elect Obama can leave America
stronger than he found it. He must avoid any small plans. America
doesn't need an $18 billion Band-Aid. The country needs a massive
education overhaul, and better teachers will be the most important
element in that overhaul. Spending more and attracting able teachers is
the best way to use resources to improve the human capital of our
children and the future of our nation...
IMHO, the K-12 educational establishment still acts as though we
were back in the 1950s--as if women could be nurses, secretaries,
waitresses, laundresses, and teachers and nothing else--and so you
didn't have to pay teachers a reasonable wage to get high quality.
It does little good to pay every teacher a high salary. Pay needs to be connected to quality somehow, if simply by allowing schools to make matching offers to coveted teachers already at their schools. Good teachers need to be rewarded for their efforts. Poor teachers shouldn't be rewarded for their lack of effort. Throwing money at teachers will not solve the problem if pay is not somehow connected to quality.
I teach at a mid-sized unionized university with a strict union pay scale, not unlike what K-12 teachers experience as I understand it. Professors have control over their starting salaries, but after that they move up the pay scale simply by staying on from year to year and by gaining tenure and promotion.
Suppose Jack and Jill are both tenured full professors in their 8th years in the Department of Economics making $85,000/year. Suppose Jack publishes nothing, experiences a 75% drop rate in all of his classes, and gets low teaching evaluations. Jill, on the other hand, publishes 8 articles in top 10 journals, wins teacher of the year and advisor of the year, teaches to a capacity class in all her classes, and becomes the editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. All else equal, they get the same salary increase at the University. Where's the incentive to excel?
This could be remedied by allowing colleges to make matching offers to professors who get outside job offers from other universities - in other words, paying them a wage determined by the market - and by giving them incentive pay. But to my knowledge, neither is done in my system, nor is it done in K-12.
How can we close the gap? Well, I suppose we could round up a bunch
of assembly-line workers and force them to mow the lawns of corporate
vice presidents. Because the gap I'm talking about is the gap in
leisure time, and it's the least educated who are pulling ahead.
1965, leisure was pretty much equally distributed across classes.
People of the same age, sex, and family size tended to have about the
same amount of leisure, regardless of their socioeconomic status. But
since then, two things have happened. First, leisure (like income) has
increased dramatically across the board. Second, though everyone's a
winner, the biggest winners are at the bottom of the socieconomic
Landsburg's piece reminds me of the Monty Python sketch "Dennis Moore:" This measuring inequality is trickier than I thought. Inequality of income, wealth, consumption, happiness, or leisure - each in stocks or each in flows - what is the "right" way to measure inequality among groups of people?
Aguiar and Hurst can't explain fully that rising inequality, just as
nobody can explain fully the rising inequality in income. ...
Landsburg's article also reminds me of a comparative advantage example I do early in the semester in Principles of Micro*. The example uses a basic two-person, two-task economy with one
person, Wilbon, who has an absolute advantage in both tasks. My goal is to show that even if someone is more productive in all facets of life, he can still gain by trading with somebody else. In my example, Wilbon gains more than the unproductive guy (Kornheiser),
but only in terms of material goods. This is not surprising.
At times, students have noted what appears to be the inequality in the gains in my example. True, Wilbon gains more and Kornheiser has to work more. But both men are assumed to have entered into a voluntary exchange with one another, meaning both are made better-off by the exchange. Moreover, Kornheiser's greatest gains are not in material goods, but in leisure time acquired by having a more productive guy do stuff for him.
Life imitates econ. Who says we don't teach anything of relevance in our classes?
*I teach the principle of comparative advantage immediately after discussing opportunity costs because I like to try to get students to think about why we as people voluntarily trade with one another in the first place.
Readers of this blog know that I had little math training coming out of my undergraduate program and my selection of grad programs was narrowed. I ended up getting into Mizzou largely because the director of undergraduate studies at Mizzou knew one of my references from the University of Nebraska, Omaha. My reference remarked that although I my academic credentials didn't show it, I thought about things "the right way."
Althgough its premise makes me cast a skeptical, there is a new website called economicdiversity.org which contains financial aid and income data of students:
Higher education in America has become increasingly stratified,
with some institutions enrolling large numbers of students from
low-income families, while others primarily serve students from more (hardworking parents) privileged backgrounds. Because education is so central to upward
mobility, it is important for researchers, policy makers, and the
public to keep a close eye on this trend.
data on this website show the extent to which public and private
colleges and universities enroll undergraduates from various economic,
ethnic and racial backgrounds. While racial and ethnic diversity data
have long been available, colleges are not required to systematically
collect information on students’ income levels. To help fill this gap,
we have used federal financial aid information as a proxy. We hope that
in the future more detailed campus-level data about economic diversity
will be available to the public.
Economicdiversity.org is a project of The Institute for College Access and Success, Inc. (TICAS), which is fully responsible for its content.