How Much Do High Schools Spend On Sports Vs. Education?




Sports are currently embedded in the school system now more than evermore. Schools are tightening their budgets to cater to sporting activities, and this debate always comes up. However, there are different sides to the coin and real challenges facing the education system, as we will discuss. For example, many students think, “pay someone to do my homework“, and find different ways to get a good grade without much effort, but that does not mean that the educational system is failing or is at a low level.

With tightening school budgets, the spending per child on sports surpasses the expenditure per student in the main subjects. The spending on sports is typically three times more than the spending on education. On average, American schools spend $100 billion on sporting events and over $56 billion in catering for food and beverages.

The imbalance is also seen in a career where a professional sports player earns way more than a school teacher. Joan Young, an academic writing expert, stated that “the impact teachers have in our society is more than what sportsmen have in society, and this effect trickles down to society.”

The cost of having students engage in sports in school has steadily increased over the years. The reason parents keep paying for these sporting events is the expected investment return in the long run.

Studies have shown that students participating in sports are likely to attend tertiary school and earn more wages than their peers after school. 

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Participation in sports takes a toll on parents, but participation is still on the rise. Annually, about 8 million high school students participate in sports in the USA. Slightly over 3 million girls participate in sports, and about 57% of the rest consists of boys. The top sporting activities for girls are track and field, volleyball, and basketball.

Cost of High School Athletics

Sporting is a massive industry, and it has a considerable income. Parents spend on average $670 per year while some parents spend more, up to $1000 on sports.

This tag includes sporting registration fees, uniforms, coaching, and lessons. 

Participation in sports has increased steadily in schools, but of families with children between 12-17, only 42% participated in sporting activities. 14% out of the 58% who did not participate in sports cited their reasons for not participating being high participation fees.

According to the University of Michigan poll, only 51% of the families with an annual income of over $60000 can afford sporting activities. Most of the other families stand on the sidelines because their finances cannot be stretched to accommodate sporting-related expenses.

What is the average athletics scholarship amount?

Scholarship amounts average at around $18000 per year per student. However, this amount is not enough to cover annual costs. However, full scholarships cover everything. They pay for tuition, living expenses, and even course-related materials. A full scholarship is a valuable benefit for a student.

For a student to receive these scholarships, they also have to be outstanding in school. One needs to have an SAT score of about 1480 or a GPA score of 3.5 or higher.

Can athletic scholarships be retracted?

Like many merit-based scholarships, athletics scholarships are offered for a year. Other divisions provide multi-year scholarships. However, if a school does not plan to renew a scholarship, they have to give their reasons and allow the student to appeal.

How much do sports generate for their schools?

Annually, about $950 million is spent on scholarships in the United States. This amount caters to about 45000 students. On the other hand, $1.2 billion is used to pay around 4400 coaches’ salaries.

Do student-athletes get paid?

Basketball and college football programs earn money more than any other programs. Consequently, the students participating in these programs gain a lot of money. Student-athletes are paid, but they do not receive hefty salaries as their coaches receive or even compared to what the entire program makes.

The funding gap between sports and education

With the increased funding for sports, many high schools struggle to fill the funding gap for education. Spending on education is now lower, close to the pre-recession times. Funds allocated to schools and colleges are $12billion below the necessary budget.

On the other hand, athletes keep growing with up to a 40% increase in expenditure every year. The average professor salaries grow by about 4% per annum, whereas coach salaries grow at about 13% per annum. In the past six years, coaches’ salaries have almost doubled.

Schools are always seeking out new ways to combat funding shortages. Athletics can be a tempting way to bridge the gap, but schools should not lose their overall mission: education. Very few of the sporting models adopted by schools are self-sustaining. Sometimes the revenues from sports do not break even and supersede the overall costs.

As learning institutions spend more on their athletics, they are forced to increase tuition fees to disproportionate amounts. Parents end up straining to keep their kids in sports. They risk undermining themselves and leading to the weariness of the education system.

Do sports help children build better futures?

Experts have stated that students who engage in sports end up having better leadership skills and higher self-esteem. These effects last for a lifetime, for impact can be seen even 50 years after graduation.

Statistically, 67% of females that participated in sports in school now occupy high-level management positions. Males who participated in sports also have relatively better pay than their counterparts who did not. 76% of those involved in sports said that their excellent teamwork and enhanced adoption behaviors resulted from the educational activities they got involved in in the school.

Parents might be unsure whether to get their kids involved in sports. Statistics cut on both edges; self-improvement and costs. However, if parents can afford it, it would be a good idea to get them involved.


Sports in themselves are not bad, but schools should balance their expenditure between sports and education. Many schools are struggling with their budgets and with such stretched resources; only time will tell how the face of the education system will look like once this economic meltdown comes to a close.

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