(Disclaimer: I am a college athlete)
Right off the bat I will say that I don’t have a yes or no answer for this question. I believe that there are certain situations that may have a yes and others that are a no. I think that overall college athletes do a lot for their school.
College athletes can bring in substantial revenue for their universities and create a reputation, sometimes good or bad. Sports programs are instrumental in how people view colleges. Some may only associate colleges for their sports teams based on success. However, athletes can also bring negative attention to their universities as well. If a college has poor sports teams with little success it can do the opposite that successful programs do. Also things like violations and athletes getting into trouble with the law can cause harm to a colleges reputation.
When it comes to universities giving back to their athletes there is plenty that they can do for students rather than just paying them money. Scholarships are a big way that athletes can get compensation in return for what they do. Maybe if student athletes are offered full scholarships it would accomplish more than paying them would. Paying for college is a huge expense and when a school can cover that for a student it is big, more so that paying would do. If an athlete is getting paid then that money will most likely go towards their tuition anyways if they don’t already have a full scholarship. Other things like free meal plans and coverage for books and supplies are offered for certain athletes as well. Overall, athletes in the present day get a respectable amount of help in financial means. Paying them on top of all of this might be a little too much.
The one area that I believe student athletes should receive extra money from their students is from the top division one programs that bring in thousands and millions of dollars as a result from their athletic programs. Programs like Kentucky Basketball and Alabama Football make so much money off of their athletic programs, mostly based off of their success. None of this money they make however goes back to the students directly. The money does benefit the programs with things like better gear but the money made goes even beyond those expenses.
If college athletes were to get paid how would you even determine when and how much? Would a small unsuccessful program’s athletes get paid just as much as some of the biggest schools in the nation? Would the top athletes get paid the same as some one who may be a walk-on that has seen little playing time? What happens when an athlete gets injured? Where would this money to pay athletes even come from. There would be a lot that would have to go into determining guidelines for paying athletes and I think in the end there really is no need for it.