The Biden / Harris Free Study Plan can offer athletes an escape from the NCAA Stranglehold


Senator Kamala Harris campaigns at Florida Memorial University, where she announced plans for her ticket to offer free lessons to students.

Senator Kamala Harris campaigns at Florida Memorial University, where she announced plans for her ticket to offer free lessons to students.
Photo: GT

What happens when free tuition and free work conflict?

This is the question for athletics at the National Collegiate Athletic Association after Democratic Vice President Senator Kamala Harris announced last week that she and her first colleague Joe Biden’s student Free lessons In public / private universities, colleges, and black universities (HBCUs) for students who come from families with incomes below $ 125,000.

In thinking about the current, breaking, Self-employment system For college athletics – linked to students’ performance on the field and on the court, however Not sharing any of the revenues With them – it stands to reason that a free need-based education plan would give many student-athletes greater flexibility in choosing where they would prefer to attend school and compete in sports (or not). At the same time, it will give university athletic directors and coaches flexibility in building their teams. Winning, it seems. But surely other factors play a role, either independently of, or colliding with, each other in the gluttonous money-making machine that is the NCAA.

Before linking the free education plan to college athletics, the following must first be understood:

  1. This is just a suggestion from the campaign path, a suggestion that will require locating several hoops and jumping through them before going through.
  2. There are other proposals already on Capitol Hill toward NCAA reform, one of them, The Bill of Rights for University AthletesThis will require players to pay a portion of pie.
  3. There is an ongoing debate among those studying higher education as to whether a precisely defined proposal would, in fact, fairly benefit all potential students in the intended ways.

For example, free tuition fees are tied to parents’ income Not exactly the preferred route Of many defenders, and it is also not cut and dry as it appears. AlsoSome free study plans are “last dollar” plans, to bridge the gap between financial aid and full tuition cost, such as Excelsior Scholarships in New York. But even actual “free” study plans don’t always take into account the college’s new economics. From Dr. Sarah Goldrick Raab, author of the book Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American DreamIn the Atlantic Ocean:

Consider how the financial aid formula evaluates what a student will pay for college. Families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and when it expires, they are told of an “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC). This is the number parents are expected to pay to help send a young student to college, at least as long as the student does not have a spouse or child of her own. The formula that leads to the number does not take into account the parents’ debts, even from their education. However, with EFC, the government is giving a clear assurance: When it comes to paying for university, parents must help their students.

But sometimes they just can’t. In fact, sometimes, the money will move in the opposite direction.

And speaking of money moving in the opposite direction, the billions of dollars earned from student-athletes’ performance currently go to everyone. But Them regardless of their scholarship. This, in essence, prevents them from potentially sharing millions in revenue while they are in school, and the wealth of future generations that stems from those dollars afterward. These are the results of a recent study titled How the NCAA Empire Steals Predominantly Black Athletes from Billions in Generational Wealth.

From this report:

“From a generational wealth perspective, denying players access to their fair market value has cost them during the years they were playing, as well as the likelihood of what that money means for their long-term financial security. For example, if a college football player or soccer player invests Men’s basket of only $ 100,000 of what should be compensated under a fair revenue sharing agreement In a retirement account at 6% interest over a 40-year period, their investment would accrue to $ 1,028,572. “

Dr Eileen J. Sturofsky, co-author on that groundbreaking study, sees the potential impact of the very specific Biden / Harris proposal – which is limited to certain schools and certain family income levels – as an abundance of unknowns, but with good potential giving many student-athletes other paths. To pursue their education. It also means that the value of the sports scholarship has diminished somewhat and, in some cases, will be brought into controversy by students’ choice of need-based scholarship instead.

“to me, [revenue sharing for players] It is where we have needed to go for many years, ”says Storowski.“ But I basically think there is some kind of lie in all of this: that we expect athletes to do these jobs full time in a very competitive environment with billions at stake. … and we expect the players at that that the environment of pretending to kind of like full-time students, with access to the best environment in which to learn, is completely the wrong environment, I argue. This does not mean that there can be no mixing of the two. “

She thinks this blending could be the biggest benefit of a free education plan: giving students who qualify for free education the option to just be a student, not a math student.

“This proposal might take the pressure off individuals who want to go to college but believe that athletic performance is their only way to get in,” says Sturovsky, who is also a professor of sports media at the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College in upstate New York.

Here are some other problems that arise when considering the Biden / Harris proposal in the current NCAA landscape:

What percentage of student-athletes would the free education plan affect? Will any residents benefit more than others?

The Collegiate Professional League (PCL) is a group trying to turn the NCAA’s grip on young athletes. Designed as an alternative professional option for college-age players, PCL will provide guaranteed payroll while playing, and a good full life academic scholarship anytime after their playing career ends. PCL aims to have its first eight teams on the field in summer 2021, and the state of the world is outstanding.

In their apparent call for a new order, PCL cites this “More than 50 percent of college basketball players at Power 5 conferences come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.” So, yes, many potential student-athletes can benefit from a free tuition plan without having to rely on athletics.

“We feel that the education component is integral to the experience of college athletes, especially societies that are often seen only for athletic performance, and often mostly black communities,” says Ricky Volant, co-founder of PCL. “But they are complete people – not just athletes. We 100 percent support any political initiative in which universal free education is provided. We love the fact that HBCU is included in this proposal, and we’re going back to our roots.” (The PCL recruited HBCUs to partner with the league, but it was rejected.)

Staurowsky echoes Volante: “One of the disturbing dynamics, especially with first-class programs, especially from a racial perspective, is that not all scholarships are the same. If you play football and your body is battered and you may experience concussions with concussions over a lifetime – these are not The same experience that another student in business administration might have with a merit scholarship.

How does free tuition affect employment for different sports?

As Staurowsky explained, there is a difference between “head count” scholarship sports, such as soccer, in which a coach is awarded a specified number of full scholarships to distribute, and “par” sports, where the coach has a set amount to spend and can do so through scholarships Full or partial, depending on the needs of the team.

“If coaches only have a certain set of sports scholarship money,” Sturovsky said, then would they feel they could recruit other athletes they could not recruit before because they would be fully funded? In theory, it could end up supporting parity sports and creating more opportunities. “

For those students covered by the free tuition plan, will housing costs and other miscellaneous expenses be included? Doesn’t the free tuition option reduce the value of the sports scholarship by making it, essentially, a room, board and fringe plan?

The NCAA itself states that “Full scholarships cover tuition fees, room, board, and course related books. Most student-athletes receiving athletics scholarships receive an amount that covers a portion of these costs.” The Biden / Harris plan does not cover these elements. If the current system remains in place, students who are likely to choose between a sports scholarship or a need-based grant may feel compelled to choose the most comprehensive scholarship, but at the cost of spending less time to devote to “student” life.

It is interesting to note that in the same Definition of scholarshipsThe NCAA says this about its value: “A college education is the most rewarding benefit of a student’s athletic experience.”

Contrast it with A questionnaire In April by the Hope Center for College, Society, and Justice who found it approx A quarter of first-division athletes surveyed They were food insecure in the 30 days prior to the survey, and nearly 14 percent had been homeless in the past year. The results reveal the unstated fact that sports scholarships do not necessarily provide everything a student would need to succeed in the field or in the classroom. Even a former NBA star Sebas Napier He said he sometimes went to bed hungry, Even in the midst of the 2014 UConn race to the NCAA title. “There are hungry nights and I am unable to eat and I still have to make use of my abilities. … When you see your shirt being sold – it might not have your last name on it – but when you see your shirt being sold and things like that, you feel like you want something On the other hand “.

Will the free education plan somehow change the hearts and minds of the NCAA leadership to overturn the system and pay players money?

No. Not an opportunity. Stop that rational thinking now. “There are four ways to bring down an economic cartel,” Volante said. “Syndicate, legislation, litigation, or competition.

“The first three tracks proved unsuccessful, so even though we knew it would be a huge lift to take off, we believed that competition was the best way to bring about comprehensive and systemic change.”

Volante is also working with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) on the College Athletes’ Rights Act, hoping that if there is a legislative change somewhere on the horizon, it won’t. Loosened.

“You have to go as far left as possible to start, because you accept that when you get to the ground and there is a horse trade, you will lose certain things,” Volante said. “If a lot of things are stripped, you end up looking like the NCAA’s own proposal. That’s a huge fear for us in terms of the advocacy work that we’re doing for students. But I don’t see a wholesale change coming in legislative terms.”

The Biden / Harris proposal raises as many questions as it answers in relation to college athletics. What is clear is what has always been clear to the advocates: The more options student-athletes have to pursue an education, the better – and the more leverage they can apply to their employment.

“They say the sky will fall if these athletes are treated like any other student and their thinking is completely disturbed,” Staurowsky says. “In terms of university enrollment, if all of these factors can be responsibly restated to provide legitimate access to education, then it will win-win everywhere.”

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