Should College Athletes Be Paid: Possible Drawbacks of the Policy

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Table of Contents

  • Multiple Factors If College Athletes Had the Privilege of Getting Paid
  • Conclusion
  • References

In today's society, it has become normal for controversial topics of any kind to be discussed frequently, whether on social media or just a conversation with some friends. A standout topic that is controversial to almost everyone is the idea of college athletes getting paid. No matter where one stands, there is a significant amount of evidence that supports both cases. One argument is that the athletes are held to a higher standard by having to balance both academics and athletics. This can be unmanageable for some athletes. The counterpart to this argument is that student-athletes are not professional athletes, therefore they should not be getting paid, according to the NCAA. In some situations, they can get paid in other forms like a full-ride scholarship or tuition. I will reflect on qustion should college athletes be paid as in this essay I follow a side against paying college athletes. 

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Multiple Factors If College Athletes Had the Privilege of Getting Paid

The first factor is that it would eliminate the line separating amateur and professional sports. In most recent news, according to The New York Times, 'California governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill to allow college athletes to hire agents and make money from endorsements.' However, the bill will not go into effect for another four years, but that does not stop the uproar from the NCAA. They claim the act is 'unconstitutional' and potentially could penalize the schools with fines. The NCAA has always kept the line between amateurism and professionalism very thick and they want to keep it that way. They have been accused of 'ripping off' college athletes by programming their game and collecting money off of their sweat and hard work. Again, this takes away the line between amateur and professional sports because there is almost an expectation to get paid. At the end of the day, college athletes are still college students and should not be getting paid like a fulltime employee. I do not doubt that an athlete deserves to get recognized for their talent and ability, but while they are still at the amateur level, they should not be treated as a professional.

Another factor is that their focus would be geared towards the sport rather than the academics. Education should be the main focus when going to college, for it is the main purpose of going so it needs to be prioritized better. I can only imagine what a college athlete's schedule looks like when practices, workouts, and games are added. Though they have to meet the academic requirements to participate in athletics. Their grades and time to study can be effected without the proper time management skills, leaving their education on the back burner. If paid, athletes would choose the university or college with the best program for their sport and where they would get paid the highest instead of choosing the program where they would learn the most. This suggests that sports would come first and education would follow. According to the NCAA, less than two percent of all college athletes progress to the professional level. This leaves the remaining college athletes to depend on their academics to support them for life after college. No one can confidently predict how far college athletes will go in their sports career, so having a degree to back them up is crucial.

If college athletes did get paid, the item in question is which athletes would get paid? Would it be all athletes of different programs or just strictly 'popular' sports like football and basketball? American football is the most popular sport in college, according to the, followed by basketball. Those sports are taken very seriously by most schools, especially when it comes to recruitment for the professional level, so when choosing a school, the athlete would take the popularity of the school into consideration to have higher chances of being noticed by bigger teams. Other college sports such as volleyball, softball, baseball, and many others, in fact, do not pay; it is not even brought up in the conversation. It should be noted that if college athletes were to get paid, it would only be select sports and not an equal right to all. The school could be accused of discriminating against certain sports, which could ruin their reputation for soon-to-be college students.

One last point I would like to address is how college athletes 'get paid' exactly. For example a full-ride scholarship. This helps towards the cost of attendance, any injury insurance, and even grants. Understandably, this is 'fairer' for the athlete because they are still receiving aid from the school they need. However, if a paycheck is added, the school will be facing a bigger problem. To continue supporting their programs, they might have to ask taxpayers for some support. Public schooling would not suffer the same way private schools would. 'Private institutions would likely increase tuition rates to meet the financial obligations involved,' writes Natalie Regoli from Private schools are already so expensive and to increase tuition, even more, it could affect enrollment. There is a possibility that the school would have to cut or stop funding other programs to pay the athletes. I am not suggesting that no one would attend the school anymore, as dramatic as that sounds, but to bring to light that if the school cuts certain programs and caters more to athletes than their regular students, it would affect their enrollment for students with various aspirations.


With some of the many points, I chose to address, in conclusion, college athletes should not get paid because colleges or universities would ultimately prioritize their athletic programs (select programs for payment) over their academics. Higher education is to promote better jobs for their students with their level of degree, not just for athletics. The other programs offered do not deserve a cut in funding or cut as a whole to pay nonprofessional athletes. Considering that fewer than two percent of college athletes move on to the professional level, this topic should not be promoted as a guarantee to college students by simply handing them paychecks.


  1. Emmert, M. R. (2019). NCAA president Mark Emmert defends not paying college athletes. USA Today. Link

  2. Anderson, R. A. (2020). The Case Against Paying College Athletes. The Heritage Foundation. Link

  3. Brown, T. (2018). The Unintended Consequences of Paying College Athletes. The Atlantic. Link

  4. Thelin, J. R. (2019). Arguments Against Paying College Athletes: A Historical Perspective. Inside Higher Ed. Link

  5. Suggs, W. F. (2020). NCAA Athletics and Pay for Play: The Impact on Title IX and Gender Equity. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 13(1), 86-108.

  6. Coyne, A. S., & Jennings, N. A. (2016). Pay for Play in College Athletics: The Impact on Female Student-Athletes. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 9, 240-259.

  7. Becker, G. S., Murphy, K. M., & Topel, R. H. (1995). Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth. Journal of Political Economy, 103(5), 1060-1101.

  8. Kennedy, K. J. (2018). The myth of the 'student'-athlete: The college athlete as employee. Journal of College & University Law, 44(2), 353-387.

  9. McGee, D. E. (2017). Academic Corruption in College Sports: A Historical Perspective. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 10(2), 149-165.

  10. Cochrane, M. (2017). College athletes are already paid with their education. CNBC. Link

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