Northwestern Football and Net Gain

Matt Marton-USA; TODAY Sports

Phrases like "they get a $200,000 education" get thrown around when NCAA compensation talk is the subject. This is a misrepresentation of how financial aid works. It is useful to breakdown how financial aid works at Northwestern, to determine the actual compensation of their football players.

Northwestern is a private school, which uses need-based formulas to determine how much each student receives in institutional scholarships and grants. Few students pay the the full 60k+ price tag for 4 years, or the $240,000 cost of a college degree that is often cited. In addition, federal grants, outside scholarships, loans and work-study play a part in a complete financial package.

Northwestern's (very good) financial aid website shows four family examples and what they should expect to receive in financial aid. I am going to go one further, comparing the aid received by these non-athlete Northwestern students against the aid these examples would receive if they played Football at Northwestern.

Family Annual Income Family Assets Expected Family Contribution 4 Year Aid (Minus Loans) Net Gain of Athletic Participation Hours of Athletic Participation* Aid/ Hour of Athletic Participation Net Gain of Athletic Participation/ Hour
$25,000 $0 $0 $263,336 $18,144 5225 $50.40 $3.47
$105,000 $400,000 $14,500 $240,756 $67,984 5225 $46.08 $13.01
$137,358 $150,000 $31,000 $240,756 $124,044 5225 $46.08 $23.74
$385,000 $611,500 $63,793 $240,756 $240,756 5225 $46.08 $46.08

*Hours calculation: 40 hrs for 80 weeks of 4 seasons, 50 hours for 12 weeks of 4 training camps, 20 hours for 24 weeks of 3 spring practices and 15 hours for 63 weeks of 3 offseasons.

The chart shows that although the gross gain of athletic participation at Northwestern is between 240 and 260 thousand dollars, and between $46 and $50 dollars an hour, the net gain is only that high for the wealthiest students who would be expected to pay for all of their college education. This does not take into account academic merit scholarships, which have been shown to favor students of families with high socio-economic status. An athlete would have to forgo an academic scholarship if they receive a full athletic scholarship, as a result, their net gain of academic participation would decrease.

Sadly, the less economically privileged a student athlete, the more exploitative athletics become. A student with a $0 Expected family contribution only gains $18,144 for FOUR years of athletic participation, representing $3.47 in net gain/hour, lower than the minimum wage in Illinois in 1990.

The median annual household income in America is $52,100, and the median assets of a adult in the US is $38,786. Based on those figures, the average college football athlete will be more exploited economically than benefited from playing NCAA athletics.

Need based financial aid policies have evolved in an attempt to give each student enough aid to afford college based on their families' financial situation. The NCAA's "flat-rate" policy has created a situation where the wealthiest gain (especially wealthy students with poor academics) the most from athletic participation.

As the Northwestern union victory opens up calls for NCAA reforms, I hope student-athletes recognize the net gain problem and move to make the economic gain from playing football more equitable among all football players.

Examples of Northwestern and Athletic aid:

The Art of the Possible

A student from Florida lives in a single parent household and has no siblings. Her family income totals $25,000. The family has no savings and does not own a home.

Family circumstance

  • Total cost of attendance $63,798
  • Expected Family Contribution $2,500
  • Financial need $61,298

Financial aid award

  • Pell Grant $5,645
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant $4,000
  • Pledge Scholarship $5,500
  • Northwestern Scholarship $43,653
  • Federal Work-Study $2,500 (Ed note): Can be replaced with $2,500 in subsidized stafford loan
  • (Ed note): Unsubsidized loan of $2,500 available to pay family contribution
  • Total Aid Offered $63,798

Athletic Award

A football scholarship covers tuition, mandatory fees, room & board, and $800 in books.

Tuition: $45,120
Fees: $407
Room & Board: $13,862
Books: $800
Total Grant in Aid: $60,189
Pell Grant: $5,645

Total Student Financial Aid: $63,798 with $2,500 in student loans, potential 4-year loan debt of $10,000

Total Athletic Financial Aid: $65,834 with no student loans.

Net Athletic Gain (assuming work-study is used instead of loan): $4,536.

4 Year Net Gain of athletics: $18,144.

Building for the Future

A student from Illinois is one of two children to be enrolled in college next year. Both parents are employed outside the home. The family’s income is $105,000. They have $350,000 in home equity and $45,000 in savings. The student has $5,000 in savings and investments.

Family circumstance

  • Total cost of attendance $63,193
  • Expected Family Contribution $14,500
  • Financial need $48,693

Financial aid award

  • Northwestern Scholarship $40,693 (edited from 40,193)
  • Subsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loan $3,500
  • (ed note): Unsubsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loan $2,000
  • (ed note): Parent PLUS Loan $14,500
  • Federal Work-Study $2,500
  • Total aid offered (ed) $63,193

Athletic Award

A football scholarship covers tuition, mandatory fees, room & board, and $800 in books.

Tuition: $45,120
Fees: $407
Room & Board: $13,862
Books: $800
Total Grant in Aid: $60,189
Unsubsidized Loan: $3,004

Total Student Financial Aid: $63,193 with up to $20,000 in student loans, potential 4-year loan debt of $80,000.

Total Athletic Financial Aid: $63,193 with up to $3,004 in student loans, potential 4-year loan debt of $12,016.

Net Athletic Gain (assuming work-study is used instead of loan): $16,996.

4 Year Net Gain of athletics: $67,984.

Working Together

A student from Texas is the only member of her family in college. She has a 15-year-old brother. Both of her parents are employed and together earn $137,358. They have $100,000 in home equity and another $50,000 in investments and savings.

Family circumstance

  • Total cost of attendance $63,678
  • Expected Family Contribution $31,000
  • Financial need $32,678

Financial aid award

  • Northwestern Scholarship $26,678
  • Federal Work-Study $2,500
  • Subsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loan $3,500
  • (ed): Unsubsidized Federal Direct $2,000
  • (ed): Parent Plus Loan: $29,000
  • Total aid offered (ed): $63,678

Athletic Award

A football scholarship covers tuition, mandatory fees, room & board, and $800 in books.

Tuition: $45,120
Fees: $407
Room & Board: $13,862
Books: $800
Total Grant in Aid: $60,189
Unsubsidized Loan: $3,489

Total Student Financial Aid: $63,678 with $34,500 in student loans, potential 4-year loan debt of $138,000.

Total Athletic Financial Aid: $63,678 with up to $3,489 in student loans, potential 4-year loan debt of $13,956.

Net Athletic Gain: $30,896.

4 Year Net Gain of athletics: $124,044.

Lending a Hand

A student from Massachusetts is one of two siblings and will be the only family member in college this year. Both parents are employed and together earn $385,000. They have $285,000 in home equity, as well as $324,000 in savings and investments. The student has $2,500 in savings. The expected family contribution exceeds the cost of attendance. In this case, the University can offer various financing options.

Family circumstance

  • Total cost of attendance $63,793
  • Expected Family Contribution $63,793
  • Financial need $0

Financial aid award

  • Unsubsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loan $5,500
  • PLUS Loan $58,293
  • Total financing offered $63,793

Athletic Award

A football scholarship covers tuition, mandatory fees, room & board, and $800 in books.

Tuition: $45,120
Fees: $407
Room & Board: $13,862
Books: $800
Total Grant in Aid: $60,189
Unsubsidized Loan: $3, 604

Total Student Financial Aid: $63,793 with $63,793 in student loans, potential 4-year loan debt of $255,172.

Total Athletic Financial Aid: $63,793 with up to $3,604 in student loans, potential 4-year loan debt of $14,416.

Net Athletic Gain: $60,189.

4 Year Net Gain of athletics: $240,756.

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