THE BLOG

Solving the College Tuition Problem Is Easy

03/09/2015 12:00 pm ET | Updated May 08, 2015

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I have solved the college tuition problem, and it was easy.

Certainly you are aware of the problem.

The problem, of course, is that the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed. Students and their families are getting buried deeper and deeper in debt trying to pay for college. Public universities, once havens of affordable, quality college education, have been hit the hardest. Almost every state in America has cut, and/or is cutting funding for higher education. It's a problem that has quickly become a national crisis.

But I have solved it.

President Obama has an idea for a solution. He wants to give everyone two years of free community college tuition. It's a great solution, except for one small problem: he has no idea how to pay for it. Right now, it's a pipe dream.

But my solution doesn't have that problem. I know exactly how to pay for it. Not only that, it will cost us nothing.

That's right, nothing.

My solution does not require even one additional taxpayer dollar. It doesn't require state legislators to reallocate any of their funds, or raise taxes, or have to find any additional revenue. Not one additional state or federal dollar is necessary.

And there's more.

Universities will not have to make one single cut. Not even one employee will have to lose his or her job, not one program, major, or class will have to be eliminated. No furloughs. Not one salary will have to be lowered. Everything at the universities will be exactly as they are today.

Not. One. Single. Cut. And tuition will be lower.

How much lower? Well that depends on how much the school currently charges.

But let me give you an example. At my school, the University of Illinois at Urbana, base tuition could be lowered by 25 percent for all in-state juniors. Or, 25 percent lower for all in-state seniors.

It can work pretty much the same at every other public university in the Big Ten conference too. Probably many other state schools as well. There are, of course, other ways the savings could be divided up; this is just one way.

Not bad, huh?

There is, however, one small catch. The catch is that this will only work at the colleges and universities that have Division I football programs. But that includes most of the schools with the greatest number of students, as well as most of the largest public universities in every state. That's a lot of students.

And I admit it's not a perfect solution. A 25 percent tuition cut certainly isn't as good as a 50 percent tuition cut. And a one-year discount isn't as good as a four-year discount.

So it's not perfect, but on the other hand, it doesn't cost a thing. And, as promised, it's easy.

How easy?

As easy as four letters. E-S-P-N.

That's right, the sports television network.

ESPN can become both "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" and "The Worldwide Leader in Tuition Relief."

Here's how.

Beginning this year, the NCAA will receive an unprecedented cash windfall thanks to the $7 billion ESPN is going to pay to broadcast the college football playoffs.

That's "B" as in billion.

And the best news is, teams don't have to make the playoffs to get the payoff. They don't even have to win any games. They don't have to do anything. They're just going to get the money. Every school with a Division I football team will share in the bounty.

How much? For the 14 schools in the Big Ten (that's not a typo; don't ask), the estimate is, beginning this year, the annual payment from the NCAA and the conference will nearly double, from about $28 million to $50 million. It may even go up from there.

That's an extra $22 million per year, free and clear, no strings attached, coming to all the Big Ten schools. The other members of the so-called "Power Five" conferences should be seeing a similar cash windfall.

That's cash that used to provide tuition relief for students and their families. But all the money doesn't have to go to that; the money could even be shared between the athletic departments and their universities. Tuition could be cut, and athletics could get a raise.

It's a brand-new paradigm for funding university education, and could transform the relationship between college and college athletics for the mutual benefit of both.

For many years, athletics relied heavily on their schools to fund sports. But today, thanks primarily to television, sports have become massive revenue generators. At the same time, public universities have seen their funding plummet. It's time to flip the script; one hand helps the other.

It's not an unprecedented concept. The University of Texas, the school with the most profitable college football program in the nation, has been contributing around $8 - $9 million of its football revenue to the university for the past several years.

But remember, this isn't about taking anything away from what the athletic departments already have. They can keep all their current revenue. No cuts. And for most state schools, that means being able to continue to pay their head football and basketball coaches the highest public employee salaries in their states. No one is starving there.

I'm just talking about sharing only new money. Doesn't that seem fair?

Keep this in mind: colleges can exist without college sports, but college sports can't exist without the colleges.

So, lower tuition.

More money for sports.

No cost.

No cuts.

Everybody wins.

I told you it was easy.

(Go to www.loweruofituition.org to see the details for the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana)