Students cry foul over athlete unions

April 23, 2014: 6:15 AM ET
NCAA: To pay or not to pay?
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

While some college athletes say that it's only fair that schools treat them like employees, their non-athlete peers are crying foul.

Nearly half of U.S. college students surveyed over the past two weeks said they opposed the idea of student athletes forming unions -- just as a regulatory board ruled that some can do just that.

Even more than half said they believe unionization would accelerate the increasing cost of college for all students.

Fluent, a marketing company that targets college students, surveyed 900 students, most of whom are non-athletes. Less than one-third said they were in favor of college-athlete unionization.

Related: Labor board says Northwestern football players can unionize

"From our conversations with college students, it's clear this issue matters to more than just the student-athlete," said Michael Carey, a vice president at Fluent, in a release.

Many say they fear unionization will create greater inequality between student-athletes and non-athletes on campus, and between athletes who play different sports.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled in March that football players at Northwestern University are employees of the college and have the right to unionize. The football team will vote Friday about whether or not they will form a union. If they do unionize, the college could have to cover the cost of better medical coverage, concussion testing, and possibly even pay for the student-athletes.

Arne Duncan: Time to rethink NCAA pay

Advocates of the change argue that college athletes deserve to be treated like employees because they already receive pay in the form of scholarships, work between 20 and 50 hours per week and generate millions of dollars for their schools.

But not everyone is a fan. The coach of the Northwestern football team and some if its players are against forming a union. And the university has said it will appeal the ruling from the labor board.

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