Editor's Note (The View From Here)

$5M for 30 Seconds

There are times when I am baffled by our priorities — or lack thereof! How is it that so many are into the Super Bowl and willing to spend billions on it, yet when it comes to our schools and colleges, we don’t have money to meet their needs?

Case in point… Billions were spent on the advertisements we saw during Super Bowl 50. Companies invested an average of $5 million for a 30-second ad — $166,666 per second. That did not include the price of creating the ad, the publicity around the ad or the campaign. One source estimated that a full campaign would cost more than $30 million. Doing a quick count, more than 50 companies ran Super Bowl ads, bringing the total spend to well over $1.5 billion.

For the 70,000+ who attended the game the story was not much different. Few fans were able to even get a ticket at face value. Most tickets were only available via resale. MarketWatch reported the “Average ticket price for Super Bowl 50 tops $5,000.” Add to that the cost of round trip airfare from Denver or Charlotte; another $900+. Then there is the hotel. A 3-star in San Francisco ran between $125-$900 a night. The average Airbnb listing in Santa Clara for Feb. 6-8 was $612 a night, with some listings as high as $10,000 for the weekend. Don’t forget food, parking, souvenirs and total NFL experience. Fans were likely to spend $8,000+ on the event, bringing that total spend to over $550 million… only counting those who attended the game.

How does this compare? In colleges and universities, instruction, including faculty salaries and benefits, is the largest single expense category at public and private nonprofit postsecondary institutions and the second largest category at private for-profit institutions. At public institutions, some 27 percent of total expenses were spent on instruction. In 2012-13, instruction expenses per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student at a public college/university were $7,814. I wouldn’t even dare compare the salary of a player or manager to that of a teacher or administrator, or the cost of providing adequate security for game day to the monies spent on school security for the entire school year.

I grew up in Pittsburgh and in the ’70s lived and breathed football in the days of Bradshaw and the “Steel Curtain.” Like most everyone else I do love football, and would be excited to attend the big game. What I don’t like are the messages I keep hearing that say we don’t have the money to adequately support education, or that we are once again going to need to raise tuition to make ends meet. If billions can be spent in one day on a sporting event, don’t you think we should be able to find support for education?

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.

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