To the Sports Editor:
Re: “Big 12, Big Ten, A.C.C., SEC, Pac-12,” Aug. 8:
The decision by the N.C.A.A. to grant greater autonomy to five Division I conferences in calculating and awarding athletic scholarships runs counter to our national drive to improve educational opportunities and employment prospects for students from low-income families. Athletic scholarships are awarded on the basis of students’ merit or talent, not of family circumstances.
Over time, these scholarships for athletic prowess have morphed into scholarships for all sorts of talent, including music, acting and test-taking. Yes, merit scholarships are awarded to students who can raise a college’s average SAT score and gain the college points in the “rankings race” — all without regard to family income and with little regard for the students’ chances of graduating. This latest escalation in the awarding of athletic scholarships exacerbates an excessive use of resources that for most institutions is not recouped from broadcast rights, ticket sales or alumni donations.
Imagine if campus financial aid, whether from endowments or the discounting of tuition, were used to supplement state and federal need-based awards to improve education access and life chances for more of those who were college-ready but from the lowest income levels. Yes, television revenue might diminish for the Big 5, but our nation would be much better off.