Obstacles to Debate Success

LAB Race, Hymson, Niemi

Debate is expensive.

One of the major obstacles that low-income students face when trying to compete in debate is that they usually lack access to learned, experienced, and competitively successful debate teachers. Historically, successful debaters attend multiple debate camps each summer, hire personal coaches, and travel to tournaments across the country where they will interact with other learned debate judges and coaches.

Estimates of the year-round costs of participating in high school debate range from $2,000 to upwards of $12,000.

None of that comes cheap: top-tier debate camps typically charge $2000-$2500, which does not include travel costs, and hiring a coach with knowledge of philosophy, political science, and debate strategy costs $4000 or more.

Additionally, just attending debate tournaments during the year costs money. From tournament entry fees, to travel and lodging costs, even to buying suits—costs pile up fast.

Clearly, for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, these costs are a huge barrier to accessing the benefits of debate. Yet, it is disadvantaged students who have the most to gain from participating in the debate community. After school debate programs, weekend tournaments, and summer camps all serve to create a longer school day and school year, which research shows significantly helps to close the achievement gap. Further, the constant reinforcement of critical thinking and persuasive skills makes these students more attractive candidates for colleges across Texas and America.

But, we’re helping to remove these obstacles. Find out how.