Should College Athletes Be Paid? If Yes, Why?

The next big argument in football after if “Messi” is better than “Ronaldo” is whether college athletes should be paid or not.

Some support that college athletes should be paid because the students’ names and images are used on products and in advertising, so they should be compensated some of the profits too.

On the other hand, those who argue against it say that, as amateurs, athletes cannot be compensated with anything more than a scholarship.

According to the New York Times, Congress is examining the issue. State legislatures are considering their own plans. And the N.C.A.A. has promised changes but has long stopped athletes from making any money from their play.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and its sprawling membership of schools are mired in fights — behind closed doors, in statehouses, and on Capitol Hill — over whether and how student-athletes should be allowed to profit off their renown.

The argument over whether student-athletes should be paid could go on and on. But, let’s look at each side before we draw a conclusion. Shall we?

Who Is A College Athlete?

According to Wikipedia, a college athlete (sometimes called a student-athlete) is a participant in an organized competitive sport sponsored by the educational institution in which the student is enrolled.

College athletes are full-time students and athletes at the same time. Colleges, especially in the U.S, offer athletic scholarships in many sports.

In college, NCAA student-athletes identify values, build character and examine the role college athletics plays in higher education.

They return to campus with invaluable leadership skills; a thorough understanding of the differences between NCAA divisions as well as campus, conference office, and national office responsibilities; and an expanded peer network.

They also learn about careers in college sports and how to become the next leaders within the industry.

So, as college athletes, they get resources like test preparation materials, financial literacy information, online education, and behavioral assessments.

In college athletics, just like in every other college activity, graduation rates are important too. So, college athletics are also given the best classes to help them graduate in fine grades.

According to the NCAA, the graduation rate for student-athletes in 2018 was up to 88%. As a matter of fact, college athletes have to meet certain grade requirements in order to continue competing, so this keeps them focused on schoolwork too as much as college athletics.

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Should College Athletes Be Paid?

According to a recent survey of 2,501 college students by polling platform College Pulse, a majority of students support initiatives to pay college athletes.

The truth is, paying college athletes would change college sports tremendously! But, the how is what we don’t yet know.

However, the parties for and against why college athletes should be paid make some valid point we should consider before we make any conclusions.

So, let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of being paid as a college athlete. What would be the advantages or disadvantages if college athletes should be paid?

Why College Athletes Should be Paid

It will really be pretty cool if college athletes are paid to play. Here are some of the advantages of doing so.

#1 Players may stay longer In school

Players wouldn’t have to drop out of school early and would still be able to pursue an education while taking care of their family back home.

This could potentially increase graduation rates, allow fans to see their favorite players grow to maturity through college, and ensure coaches are preparing athletes as much as possible for the next level.

#2 Support their families

Players can also afford a decent meal and possibly send some money back home. Many college athletes come from urban, low-class families and often leave school early because of the overwhelming pressure to be the main provider for their family at a young age.

#3 Limits corruption And Scandals

Paying college athletes will limit the corruption involving agents, boosters, among others.

Over the years we have heard scandals involving players taking money and even point-shaving. Paying these college athletes can eliminate a lot of these bad issues?

Check This Out: How can I become a certified sports Agent

#4 Paying them what they deserve right?

College athletes are bringing in incredible amounts of revenue to schools on a yearly basis.

The way these athletes show love and passion for their respective games is admirable and infectious.

However, most student-athletes actually risk serious career-ending injuries as they give it all on the field. They even put their bodies at risk of permanent damage, like limping for the rest of their lives, or suffering concussions.

So, it’s really a no-brainer to actually pay college athletes to play as their craft, at least for the health risks they are taking.

#5 There is BIG Money in College Sports already

It`s common to think paying college athletes can detract from the purity of the game and ruin that magic. But the reverse is the case here.

Big companies are profiting off of branding college athletes, with their names, asking them to wear brand apparel during games without paying them to do so.

As such, these players feel used. And it’s only just that these college athletes be paid a chunk of the profits earned.

Most especially, college basketball and football players should be paid because they are the ones who provide a good time for fans who are willing to pay to watch the games.

Arguments Against Paying College Athletes

Just like every other thing that has an advantage, there are cons that impede the decision on whether college athletes should be paid to play. So, here are some of the disadvantages of paying college athletes.

#1 Unfair compensation between players

The dilemma now becomes how to answer the question, How will players be compensated? Will each college athlete receive the same amount?

What about the top-level talent? Should they receive more because they were All-Americans? The income level among players could potentially cause tension between teammates.

This encourages injustice as people argue that it would be difficult to set a pay scale equal for all athletes. Al Dunning best stated, “Do women’s softball outfielders earn the same salary as quarterbacks?”

Since it is really only football and occasionally basketball teams that make the profit for colleges, it would be extremely difficult to pay other student-athletes equally.

#2 Financial irresponsibility

Amateur players receiving compensation sounds like a complete disaster. A college athlete does not even know anything about money management, and there is rarely anyone to guide their financial decisions.

Colin Cowherd stated, “I don’t think that paying all college athletes is great; not every college is loaded, and most 19-year-olds (are) gonna spend it—and let’s be honest, they’re gonna spend it on weed and kicks!”

Even, in reality, poor investments, trusting unethical financial advisors, and lavish spending habits are some of the main reasons professional athletes find themselves broke after they retire, according to the ESPN documentary, “Broke.” 

Without sound financial education, young student-athletes may not be equipped to handle so much money.

#3 Athletes may stop taking classes

This is true about college kids. These undergraduates go to college to secure their future and make money. So, if they give these kids money, they’ll never have any incentive to go to class.

Remember that college is really about preparing yourself for real life. It is meant to provide students with tools and abilities to succeed after college. 

However, a lot of college students today are impatient and lack the ability to delay gratification. Many of them don’t even want to go to class, combined with the fact that some may receive fine grades without doing any work.

So, paying big money to these college athletes will only add to this fact. And, this might affect the graduation rate.

#4 Removes athletes’ competitive nature and passion for the game

When college athletes are paid, they will suddenly take on a “pro mindset” where the only motive is money. They will lose that hunger and zeal that we see in college. It will be traded for lackadaisical plays and half-ass efforts that we sometimes see from pros.

#5 College Will Run Into So Much Debt

This is one of the biggest arguments about whether or not college athletes should be paid. University athletic departments would accumulate so much debt by paying their student-athletes.

For instance, if schools added a $100 a week stipend to all 200 athletes’ scholarships, it would cost $800,000 a year. Basically, the smaller, less profitable programs would not be able to afford to pay the athletes without other budget cuts. And that poses a huge problem.

In truth, programs would need to find another source of revenue to pay the athletes. Worse still, some schools would be forced to pay less money or not pay at all due to their small budget, and it would severely hurt their chances of signing better athletes.

As a result, this would potentially ruin the college competition.

#6 Promotes Inequality And Corruption

Another major argument against whether student-athletes should be paid to play is that this may encourage corruption and injustices among colleges.

There would be a great need for very strict laws to be put in place on how much athletes could be paid.

Although schools could manage ways around it. It is already possible, though extremely illegal, for colleges to pay players.

When paying college athletes gets legalized, many believe that it would only increase the amount of corruption.

Also, if payments were involved, student-athletes would be incentivized to commit to the college or university with the highest offer.

The next year, they would just transfer to another school with an even higher offer. Before you know it, these college sports would be 100% business. This new “business” could also lead to the downfall of other college programs.

And this could ultimately be a serious setback for the future of college athletics.

#7 Scholarships Actually Cover Most Of Student Athlete Salary

According to CBS Sports, in 2013 survey expert John Dennis found that 69% of the public is opposed to paying student-athletes.

According to, a full athletic scholarship at an NCAA Division I university is about $65,000 annually. This includes tuition, room, board, and books (if you enroll at a college with high tuition).

You’d think scholarships were taken out of the deal, and only salaries were given, then it would be more fair and affordable for the university, right? Wrong.

Now, here is where most people don’t understand. If salaries were paid to college athletes, they would have to pay taxes. And depending on their income, those taxes could be high enough to reduce their earnings until they can barely cover tuition.

Cash or a salary would eventually be spent on wants rather than necessities and not focused on college. This potentially leads the athletes into a debt they would not have with the benefit of a scholarship.

What Are The Rules Right Now On Paying College Athletes?

The N.C.A.A.’s Division I manual is a thick anthology of guidelines, but Article 12, which actually covers amateurism and athletic eligibility, is under the greatest scrutiny by elected officials across the country.

Part of that article bars the college athlete from accepting compensation in exchange for allowing “his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.”

The NCAA bylaws forbid sponsorships, but also activities like taking cash for autographs or monetizing social media channels.

The N.C.A.A. also has a rule — with some exceptions — that players cannot participate in a college sport if they have agreed to be represented by an agent.

So, there are a lot of restrictions that have to be looked into if college athletes should be paid in 2023.

Read more: How Can I Become A Sports Medicine Physician? Job Details, Salary, Career

So, What Does N.C.A.A Think About This?

In September 2019, California approved legislation that challenged the N.C.A.A.’s bans on agents and endorsement deals fr college athletes. It was, however, something of a time-delayed assault: This measure is not scheduled to take effect until 2023.

Still, it has already encouraged lawmakers in dozens of other states in the U.S to consider bills of their own. In truth, it’s a mixed crowd out there on the decision whether student-athletes should be paid to play or not.

In response to the mounting pressure from all over the United States, the N.C.A.A. has conceded that it will modernize its bylaws, but they are yet to release any proposals for changes.

Also, according to the New York Times, the N.C.A.A., which has repeatedly signaled that any revisions would only go so far, is unlikely to give final approval to any rewrites of its rules before January 2022, when it will next hold an annual convention.


Paying college athletes to play defeats the purpose of college as a preparatory stage of life, especially when the monetary difference between a salary and a scholarship is only marginal.

On the other hand, not paying athletes who risk serious long-term injuries as they give their all on the field is morally wrong.


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