Most college students like to root for their home team as a sign of school pride and that’s a good thing. But would they continue to do so if they knew their school’s football team was driving up the cost of their tuition?

Kevin Kiley of Inside Higher Ed has the story.

Playing Different Games

The growth of college tuition may be the trend that grabs headlines, but its slope can’t match that of how much the top football-playing universities spend on athletes.

The amount of athletics spending per athlete at universities in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Football Bowl Subdivision grew by about 50 percent between 2005 and 2010, compared to a 38 percent increase in in-state student tuition at public four-year universities, according to a report released today by the Delta Cost Project, a branch of the American Institutes for Research, entitled “Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending: Who Wins?”

According to the report, the growth in per-athlete athletic spending outpaced the growth in per-student academic spending over that time period in all subdivisions of Division I athletics. In general, the report found that Division I universities and colleges tended to spend roughly three to six times as much on athletics per athlete as on academics per student, with the ratio exceeding 12 times in the Southeastern Conference, home of the last seven NCAA national champions in football.

The Delta report builds on the work of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which in 2010 released “Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values, and the Future of College Sports,” which compared academic and athletic spending at colleges and universities and made recommendations for “restoring academic values” and “strengthening accountability for intercollegiate athletics.”

Whether comparing per-student academic funding and per-athlete funding for athletics is valuable to the debate is an open question. Many in higher education argue that participation in Division I athletics generates benefits for the entire institution, including donations, applications, regional economic returns, school spirit and even state support.