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Last week, the public learned that over 18 years, more than 3,100 student-athletes at the University of North Carolina took fake classes to satisfy academic requirements without significantly cutting into their work as athletes.

Advisers, counselors, faculty, coaches, and sometimes students collaborated to set up these “phantom classes” where no one had to meet or seriously have their assignments reviewed.

The numbers have been referred to as “surprising” and “shocking.” But are they really?

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The UNC scandal is just one of many symptoms of the larger issue of the National Collegiate Athletic Association exploiting student-athletes.

The term “student-athlete” is an excellent window into the systemic problems; it’s misleading and implies that these athletes lead normal lives as students.

North Carolina linebacker Jeff Schoettmer (10) celebrates interception return for touchdown during NCAA Football game action between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the North Carolina Tar Heels at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated North Carolina 50-43 (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

During an albeit satirical report from The Daily Show, former Northwestern University football player Kain Colter explained how the NCAA does not cover medical expenses needed for injuries students received while playing for their schools. Colter went on to talk about his schedule as a “student.”

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The UNC scandal is just one of many symptoms of the larger issue of the National Collegiate Athletic Association exploiting student-athletes.

“We already have a full-time job,” said Colter. “We don’t have time to get a second job.”

“We are employees just like how the NFL players are employees,” he continued later. “We spend 50-60 hours practicing in the off-season.”

Naturally, this means many athletes simply do not have time to focus on their academics. In a way, they are professional football players forced to masquerade as students so the universities and NCAA can compensate them with scholarships rather than paying them an honest wage.

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Joseph Rauch

Thus, colleges have a motivation to help students cheat and set up fake classes. Their administrations want the athletes to have the bare-minimum grades so they can keep students in school and continue the exploitation. However, they don’t want the students to properly earn these grades if it means taking away too much time from the athletics that bring in revenue for their school.

Helping students cheat is just one of many methods that educational institutions use to maintain this status quo where students allow them to rake in money without paying it back.

There are also some other disturbing implications in many of these stories, especially the UNC scandal. In UNC’s case, it was the African-American Studies department that set up the majority of these bogus “paper classes.”

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Furthermore, Michael McAdoo, a black former student at UNC, claimed that he was pressured into majoring in African-American studies.

He goes on to say, “I lost an education. I lost trust in the school — someone I thought had my best interest.”

While cheating scandal of the extent of the situation at UNC may seem shocking, the deeper issue of exploitation is simply unconscionable.

Joseph Rauch is a staff writer for the SkilledUp Learning Hub, a provider of online educational opportunities. He’s also written for the Huffington Post.

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