Jody Lipford and Jerry Slice write for the Martin Center about college sports and educational opportunity.

Conventional wisdom and public perception hold that college sports provide educational opportunities for thousands of student-athletes who could not afford to attend college without them. The National Collegiate Athletic Association lists “providing opportunities to earn a college degree” as at the heart of its mission and boasts that nearly 500,000 student-athletes participate in college sports each year.

Nonetheless, a vexing question remains unanswered, and usually unasked: who pays for the educational opportunities that benefit many college athletes? This is the question that we attempt to answer in a recently published article in the Journal of SPORT. The answer may surprise many and upset some, but it is all too clear. First, colleges and universities vary significantly in the amount of institutional funds that go to subsidize college athletics, and second, the colleges and universities that provide the highest institutional subsidies to college athletics are far too often schools that serve a student population that faces the greatest academic challenges and financial need.