Should College Athletes be Paid?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules and regulations state that college athletes participating in college athletics should not receive any compensation. Importantly noted, although the rules have been challenged on several occasions, the NCAA has been adamant about making any changes. Consequently, and according to statistics, college athletes, bring a significant amount of revenue to their schools. For instance, according to a report by Strachan (2015), the NCAA has annual revenue of almost 1 billion per year. Unfortunately, every year after the tournament has been wrapped, all this begs the age-old question; should college athletes be paid? Despite the never-ending arguments supporting payment of college athletes, they should not be paid and for obvious reasons. For instance, the tuition and the scholarship they receive fully compensate their contribution to the school. Besides, paying college athletes would completely change the college sports landscape and only benefit the very high profile schools, sports, and athletes.

Tuition and Scholarship Compensates the Athletes

College athletes receive a full athletic scholarship for their education where tuition money is fully covered. However, there has been an ongoing debate seeking to pay college athletes. In this case, assuming salaries replace scholarships and college players are compensated per year. Virtually, a full athletic scholarship at NCAA Division I university with high tuition is around $65,000. The fee is within the range of most colleges such as Stanford, University of Southern California, or Vanderbilt among others. In state universities, the cost is lower. This presents the ultimate questions, assuming the student-athlete is receiving a $100,000 salary, is it a better deal than the $65,000 (Thelin, 2016)? Ideally, the salary would look impressive for a college student who has no heavy expenses. However, as Thelin elaborates, it is no longer a scholarship, but a salary and is subject to federal and state income taxes. Based on some of the moderate tax states such as Kentucky, the student will owe the state about $23,800 in federal income tax, and about %6,700 state taxes. The total adds to around $30,500, which means the student is left with just $65,100 and since college tuition is $65,000, then the player only remains with $100. Thus, the student income may be high, but both the federal and state taxes will reduce what they earn until it can barely cover tuition fee. Consequently, there is no question as to what the scholarship money is paying. Nonetheless, when students receive salary or cash, they might end up spending it on wants instead of necessities, which could potentially land the student into debt they would not have incurred with the benefit of scholarship.

Payment would change College sports landscape

For high school athletes, a majority of them dream of joining the college team. Unfortunately, according to the NCAA (2017), only a few of these students who compete as NCAA athletes get selected. Consequently, the odds of winning an NCAA sports scholarship are significantly minimal. In fact, according to O’Shaughnessy (2012), only about 2 percent of high school athletes win scholarships at NCAA colleges and universities. Fully paid sports scholarships are not always available and only a few athletes in Divisions I qualify for a full ride. Along with that, it is important to understand that, playing college athlete is a privilege and college students should understand that the opportunity to play in college is something that millions of other students only dream of and cannot achieve. Consequently, a majority of the college students play for the love of the sport and do not want to turn it into a job. Others see playing in college as an achievement of their childhood dreams and in most cases are not bothered about the money that comes along with a sports career in college. Instead, all they want to do is talk about their dream, do their victory dance after they win in front of the crowds and feel pride associating with the winning game. The most these students want to get out of being college athletes is pride, gratification, and competition. They enjoy the thrill of their victory and the pure agony of defeat. More particularly, this is the heart of the game in college and doing it for other reasons such as money is a distinct reason. Additionally, while some of these students can be able to play at an advanced level, they are still not professionals. Their job is not to play sports as a professional, but as an extracurricular activity that is pursued alongside a higher education program. Paying college athletes means that the students will stop viewing college athletics in the manner and instead, see it as a money-making strategy. Majority of them will not do it out of passion and the love of the game, but for money; and doing this, they will ultimately change the very nature of college athletics.

It will only Benefit High profile Schools and Athletes

Paying college athletes would mean that athletes will have to be incentive to commit to the highest bidder. They may also constantly transfer from one college or university to another provided they get a higher offer. At the end of the day, the sports will be 100 percent business. While this may be rewarding for the college athletes, it can also lead to the collapsing of other college programs. The money luring the athletes will also have to come from somewhere, which means the least popular colleges are at the risk of being cut out in the NCAA sports. In return, this is likely to deny students the opportunity to study at their college of choice, since the desired program will no longer be available. Along with that, because the athletes will be playing for the schools that offer the highest pay, only the high profile institutions are likely to benefit.

The debate on whether to pay college students or not is a never-ending argument. While there are a couple of reasons supporting the payment of student-athletes, there are several others why they should not be paid. Paying college athlete is likely to compromise the financial situation of many schools and could cause other programs to be cut. Consequently, while paying student-athletes may seem fair to the students, college students are not financially responsible. Most of them are more likely to spend their money on wants instead of necessities. In this context, whether NCAA finally decides to pay college athletes, it is a decision that they are not likely to make anytime soon. In fact, the decision is not likely to happen at all. Thus, until NCAA deems it fit to pay student-athletes, the best they should is what their predecessors have always done; play sports for the love of the game.


NCAA. (2017). Estimated probability of competing in professional athletics. Retrieved from:

O’Shaughnessy, L. (2012). 8 things you should know about sports scholarships. CBS News. Retrieved from:

Strachan, M. (2015). The NCAA just misses $1 billion in annual revenue. Huffington Post. Retrieved from:

Thelin, J. R. (2016). Here’s why we shouldn’t pay college athletes. Time Inc. Retrieved from:

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