Arne Duncan: ‘Worth Considering’ Giving Athletes Free Grad School Education

March 24, 2014 - 11:44 AM

Common Core Duncan

Education Secretary Arne Duncan (AP Photo)

( – Education Secretary Arne Duncan on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday said it was “worth considering” giving student athletes a free graduate school education in addition to the free ride they already get for undergrad.

“Yeah, I think that's really important. People talk about helping them graduate from college. Yes, they should do that, but M.B.A., you know Master's, PhD, having some ability for the rest of your life to go back and get education. I think that's something worth considering. Some folks are talking about the medical expenses long term. I think that's a fair question on the table,” Duncan said during a segment on whether student athletes should be paid to play.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler filed a class action suit last week against the NCAA and the five richest college conferences on behalf of college football and men’s basketball players. The lawsuit would prevent enforcement of NCAA rules limiting the amount of financial aid players can receive – in essence allowing them to be paid, the USA Today reported on March 17.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the College Athletes Players Association is seeking to unionize Northwestern University football players, saying they “perform services under control of the university and receive payment in the form of scholarships,” adding that the players have a “master-servant relationship with the university.”

“Meet the Press” host David Gregory cited a Washington Post-ABC News poll that said 64 percent of people opposed the idea of paying student athletes.

NCAA President Mark Emmert told Gregory that Kessler should be arguing whether student athletes should be “unionized employees of a university, or is this fundamentally about students playing the game and receiving the most important thing that's going to set them up for the rest of their life, a good, sound, education and the opportunity to get that education.”

“Obviously, universities and colleges believe that these are student athletes, that these are young men and women who should continue to be students and not be unionized employees. Those are two very different levels,” Emmert said.

Reggie Love, who played football and basketball for Duke University before becoming President Barack Obama’s personal aide, proposed setting up an educational trust for student athletes. Love left his post at the White House to complete his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

“I think an educational trust. I just got out of graduate school, right? I think that graduate school cost me almost $200,000. I think that every student athlete who plays for a university should be able to go to that university – assuming that they can do the work –they should be able to be educated, graduate school,” Love told Gregory.

“I think again there's a common sense and middle ground in all these things - making sure students are fed, making sure if there's an emergency at home and mom gets very sick or dad passes away, they have an ability to get home to attend the funeral. You have some student athletes who show up with one little bag of clothes. That's all they have in the world,” said Duncan, who played basketball at Harvard and in the NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Games in the past three years.

“Far too many young men" think they’re going to grow up and play in the NBA, “and the vast majority aren’t,” Duncan said. Instead, while chasing that dream, young men should “catch an education and use sports as a vehicle to get an education, which sets you up for the rest of your life, and changes your family's prospects forever.”

Emmert told Gregory that the majority of the revenue the NCAA generates from March Madness goes to the universities – “either directly or indirectly” to support the school’s other sports tournaments, such as golf, volleyball, lacrosse, and ice hockey.