ATHLETES paying back their AIS scholarships under a HECS scheme; to many, it’s a necessity, but, to me, it’s a matter of definition.
I was asked this week by another journo mate what I thought of the idea.
He agreed “1,000,000” per cent with the arguments that they should pay once they earn over a certain threshold.
Yes, I’m sure the irony of a journo using any per centage figure greater than 100 is not lost on him, either.
If you have no idea about what he was/I am on about, then it’s like this:
The AIS awards about 700 tax-payer subsidised scholarships each year, which are valued at about $50,000 each. There are calls going around that, if an athlete begins earning over a certain amount, then they should begin paying off the scholarship in the same manner that university graduates repay their HECS debt.
Ok, let’s just put aside the debate on whether or not tax-payer dollars should be subsidising sport at all, because, otherwise, this blog could go on forever.
The issue of this blog is whether or not those scholarships should be repaid.
The opinions that demand athletes repay their scholarships seem to get caught up comparing AIS scholarships to university degrees, such as this one from Erica Cervini of The Age:
“If the government is going to charge students for education, then HECS is the fairest system. It’s also the fairest system for AIS graduates.”
Well, no, it’s not.
And athlete scholarships cannot be compared to university degrees because they’re not the same, at all.
First, there’s the definition; a scholarship is awarded as a gift based on merit and is totally different to a loan. Guess what, students can be awarded study scholarships too. Want them to pay those back?
If you answered ‘yes’ to that, then what’s the point in having education scholarships in addition to regular HECS/HELP loans? There wouldn’t be any point, whatsoever.
Secondly, there’s the lack of practicality.
I have a university degree and I am a journalist.
I need to repay my HELP debt, because, if I so desire – and if I’m still alive – in 50 years time, I can still earn money as a journalist.
An athlete, no matter what the sport, will not have that power in 50 years time. That’s because their scholarship is not a qualification.
To demand athletes repay scholarships is to overlook that fact.
The earnings of top athletes reflect both their talent at their “job”, but, equally, the limited lifespan they have in their “jobs”.
Let’s use a working example.
Athlete X earns the average $250,000 a year and their career spans the average six years. Both of those figures are based on AFLPA numbers for AFL players.
That equates to $1,500,000 over the athlete’s career.
Worker Y earns the national average wage of $72,436, they start working at 22 (after graduating from university) and retire at the Age Pension age of 67.
That equates to $3,259,620 over the worker’s career.
To drive it home, Athlete Z earns the $60,000 threshold being talked about and, lets be generous and say they manage to hang around for 10 years.
Athlete Z just earned $600,000 and had to repay $50,000 of that.
To me, that settles it.
Athlete scholarships are not student loans; by definition, a scholarship is a freebie.
Does the gifted engineer student have to pay back the university scholarship they’re awarded?
No, because it’s not a loan, it’s a scholarship.
If we want to start handing out athlete loans, then that’s fine and the athlete enters that contract with the understanding that they will have to pay the money back.
But to demand athletes repay scholarships, when they’re likely to earn a third of what the rest of the country does over the course of their careers, is to fly in the face of logic.
Let the kids play and not have to worry about pay.
What do you think about the issue of AIS athletes having to repay their HECS/HELP debts? Do you disagree with this blog? Let us know by leaving a comment below.