Speech and Debate is an inequitable activity in many ways, but one of the most commonly overlooked is the prohibitive and exclusionary financial burden that national circuit debate can impose on families. When factoring in travel and housing costs, entry fees, coaching, and judging, attending national tournaments can cost over $1000 per two-person partnership.
The impact of this activity on debater’s lives can often be so amazing; the skills that debate teaches are so important and largely unique to the activity; and the friends made along the way are invaluable. The National Speech and Debate Association explains that debate is proven to instill the skills necessary to improve student’s academic standing, most notably: communication, research, and critical thinking. For students who are given the opportunity for their hard work to pay off, the rewards are enormous: DebateUS finds that among the top 32 teams at National Tournaments, around 65% will go on to attend top thirty ranked universities. Research compiled by the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues shows that just participating in a debate program for a semester raises students’ grades, increases college readiness, and increases the likelihood that a student will attend a four-year college.
However, none of these benefits are available to students who can’t participate due to cost barriers.
Tournament costs further marginalize already economically disadvantaged members of the community. If teams don’t have coaching, they have to pay steep judging fees— as much as $200. If a team’s parents aren’t able to take off as much work, they aren’t able to drive at a low cost. If travel arrangements are being made last minute due to financial constraints, the cost of lodging and transport can be significantly higher.
All of these are structural barriers to the success of economically disadvantaged debaters, which can be effectively combated with providing consistent access to financial aid. Bringing more economic diversity into the debate space not only helps the currently underrepresented, but is equitable, valuable, and important for debate as a whole. In an activity that aims to teach students how to determine the most valuable policies and to examine all perspectives, it is only right that students from all backgrounds should be heard.
By several avenues of fundraising, Beyond Resolved aims to make scholarship funds available for individual teams by application basis beginning in the 2020-2021 season. But we need help! If you are able to donate, please consider doing so.
Here’s what your donation guarantees:
- Entry fees at most major tournaments
- Lodging for one night
$100 – $250
- Hired judging or coaching for a day
$250 – $500
- Travel to and from national tournaments
- Judges and coaches for an entire tournament
- Chaperone expenses
$500 – $1000
- Cover all expenses for a partnership at a tournament
$1000 – $2500
- Sponsor a small team through a few tournaments— including coaching, judging, travel, lodging, and entry fees
- Sponsor a team’s entire season which allows them to go to tournaments, and hire coaches in between
If you would like to donate specifically to tournament scholarships, view our Donate.ly page here.