Mac Engel

Regular students, not student-athletes, are being robbed by colleges

In our effort to complain about NCAA athlete-students not being paid cash, my brothers and sisters in the self righteous media are missing the greatest con job currently executed, which is by our colleges and universities all over the U.S.

According to Forbes, the latest figure for student debt in the United States is $1.56 trillion. That’s trillion as in - call a loan shark.

Watching the open practice for the NCAA gymnastics championships in downtown Fort Worth on Thursday, it’s another notice that 99 percent of all student-athletes are paid in the form of a compensation package that does not approach their individual contribution to their respective institution.

“I don’t think student-athletes should be paid, and I’m a walk-on without a scholarship,” LSU sophomore gymnast Sarah Edwards said in an interview Thursday. Her parents pay her way.

“We get a lot of per diem. We get so many benefits. We have a fueling station (food). We have tutoring. All of those sometimes go under the radar that are a form of payment. We are very fortunate to have all of that.

“I don’t think we should be put on more of a pedestal than we already are. This is a brief, short time. This is not a career. This is college. I mean, it’s hard but it’s nice to be a student-athlete.”

Edwards is essentially an eager employee of LSU and serves as a Title IX check, and marketing tool for the brand that, in this case, affects a fractionally small audience.

There are far more Sarah Edwards’ in NCAA athletics than Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, who should have been allowed to profit off his likeness. That’s a different argument.

I have zero sympathy for NCAA athletes, nor should you. Watch them for five minutes and you will see they are enjoying what will be some of the best moments of their lives. This is not a place for anger or sympathy, but envy.

What warrants our anger more than the college basketball player who is not cashing a check is the shell game that has families and students begging for any scholarship assistance to defray the costs of college. The costs of four-year degree from colleges and universities that are sitting on endowments worth hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.

Too many schools have morphed into multi-million dollar businesses. We may as well drop “Chancellor” from the title and call them what they are - a Chief Executive Officer. Private schools are now mostly hedge funds that operate a school, and a country club.

Every university administrator whose job it is to help a young person should double check why they entered the profession that now condones a model that now officially hurts too many to count and left them with life-altering debt. You can’t care when you benefit from a system that now saddles graduates with a debt they can’t comprehend.

Per CNBC, 1-in-4 college student leaves school with debt. The average student loan debt is $37,172; that is up $20K from 13 years ago.

Our good friends at the Federal Reserve say the average student monthly loan payment is now approximately $400. That’s a car payment, at least. People are now delaying retirement specifically because of student loan debt.

There are maybe 30 brand universities that are worth the debt, and there is a 98 percent chance your alma mater is not one of them. College is wonderful, but not at the price someone is paying on it 15 years after graduation.

This is not to endorse the preposterously stupid concept supported by Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for free college.

This is more a plea for administrators to follow the calling of higher education and that is to serve the kid, and their families; exercise some of those hundreds of millions in those endowments and invest more of it in the kid.

Virtually all studies show that a college degree results in a higher income and a better overall well being. That’s great. It does not mean a university needs to use that as extortion.

Since fundraising has become the primary goal of every upper-level college administrator, raise it for a scholarship and not the latest pretty building, a new juice bar, or 100 palettes of flowers that will die in three months.

The brand of the university is not the building, the dining hall, the on campus rec center, or a football team. The brand of Texas, TCU, Kansas or Stanford is the student who leaves with a degree and a positive experience. The student who becomes a graduate and the unofficial spokesperson for the university as a contributing member of a community, and society.

NCAA athletics is rife with its own hypocrisy, but don’t forget the other hypocrites who currently run our colleges and schools.

What student athletes do is hard, and they are compensated.

What students do is hard, and too many of them today are left with a burden made possible by their alma mater that has their best interests at heart, just as long as they can pay the interest.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram