By David J. Leonard
Beyond graduation rates and the compromised quality of the education provided in exchange for athletic participation, it is crucial to think about the overall value of an education and degree in the twenty-first century. Remember, this is the unit of exchange. The national unemployment rate for college graduates is roughly 5%. While significantly lower than those without a college degree (or a high school diploma), the increased unemployment amongst college graduates along with underemployment illustrates the increasingly shrinking value of a scholarship. Worse yet, the 5% unemployment rate includes all college graduates, a figure of limited value when reflecting on compensation levels of current and future student-athletes. In “Jobless College Graduates Struggle Under Ongoing Recession” Amanda Fairbanks and Andrew Lenoir elucidate the profound issues facing today’s college graduates:
College graduates still fare better than their peers with only a high school diploma, but even their job prospects show signs of fatigue. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, the unemployment rate for college graduates between the ages of 20 to 24-year-olds soared five percentage points in the past month — from 7.1 percent in May to 12.1 percent in June, compared with a three percent jump during the same period last year.
The rates of unemployment, the limited opportunities in career-track jobs, and heightened underemployment are all evident in the number of college graduates moving back home upon graduation. Since the recession began in 2007, there has been a 25% increase in students moving back home after college. As the value of college education has declined, the profits within collegiate sports have grown dramatically, illustrating the growing gap between revenue generated and the level of compensation provided to “student-athletes.” It points to the heightened level of exploitation, so much so that it might be time to renamed the NCAA: NEAA – National Exploitation Athletic Association.
Sports, particularly basketball and football, and its athletes generate millions for the NCAA, its representative schools, coaches, and a number of corporate partners. It is a billion dollar industry. Yet, the wages paid are dubious at best and the value of that compensation is in steady decline. This becomes even more striking as we focus our attention on the disproportionate number of African American student-athletes within revenue sports. The level of exploitation is certainly aggravated by the amounts of money generated by these athletes within these sports. Worse, yet given the continued significance of race, the level of compensation provided to black “student-athletes” is that much worse. The unemployment rate for black college graduates over 25 is almost twice the national average for blacks compared to whites (8.4 versus 4.4)
Michael Luo, with “In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap,” highlights the grim economic prospects facing black graduates.
But there is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to employment. Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. And strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of this year, as the recession has dragged on, has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.
Presumably worse for those recent college graduates, the value of scholarship for a black “student-athlete” remains in steady decline even as coaches salaries and television contracts have skyrocketed. Attributable to persistent discrimination, denied access to social networks, and other issues, black college graduates face a bleak future upon the conclusion of school.