Athletics fee: Questions still stand concerning funding
- Feb. 20, 2014
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A fundamental question stands at the forefront of an ongoing conversation for Student Senate: should students help finance Kansas Athletics — an integral part of the University — that brought in $93.6 million in revenue in 2013?
The debate resurfaced in Monday’s recommendation from the Women’s and Non-Revenue Intercollegiate Sports Fee Advisory Board to lower or eliminate the fee. The Advisory Board consists entirely of students, including chairman David Catt — a former student-athlete.
Students currently pay a required $25 semesterly fee to the Kansas Athletics Department. This year, the fee will result in between $1.2 and $1.3 million going from students to athletics. If the fee is lowered or eliminated, the money could be used by Student Senate elsewhere.
“This is Jayhawks helping Jayhawks,” Associate Athletic Director Jim Marchiony said, echoing a statement from an Advisory Board member in Monday’s meeting.
Catt, who compiled a comprehensive report detailing financial information from Student Senate and Kansas Athletics, questioned the fee’s possible benefits for the student body.
“I think, if anything, it’s the job of Student Senate to definitely critically think about which fees are absolutely necessary and which generate the greatest return for the student body,” Catt said. “I see a very minimal return on investment for the entire student body.”
What is the fee?
Every University student, knowingly or unknowingly, pays 18 required campus fees. Student Senate is in charge of distributing these fees.
Some of the University’s other required campus fees include a $134.70 Student Health Fee funding operations of Student Health Services, a $4.45 Newspaper Readership Program Fee providing USA Today, The New York Times and The Kansan across campus and a $16.30 SafeRide Fee to fund car and bus services running from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
In 1979, when universities were required to enforce Title IX regulations, a $1.50 Women’s and Non-Revenue Intercollegiate Sports Fee was introduced. Adjusted for inflation, that fee would equal $4.81 today.
The fee has increased over time, peaking at $40 from 2006-2011 when students helped fund a new $6 million, 14,000-square-foot rowing team boathouse next to the Kansas River near Burcham Park. It was lowered to $25 in 2012.
The fee directly funds travel for women’s and men’s non-revenue sports, in part keeping travel equitable between men’s and women’s sports.
“Travel costs have increased while the student fee has not,” Marchiony said. “Have you bought a gallon of gas lately? The cost of travel has increased dramatically.”
From 2005-2012, Athletics travel costs rose from $2.8 million to $8.5 million. A women’s golf team trip to Ireland in the summer of 2013 raised questions within Student Senate.
“Are we funding that?” Student Body President Marcus Tetwiler asked earlier in the year. “Are the 25,000 students at KU subsidizing lavish expenses?”
How does Kansas compare?
According to information provided by Kansas Athletics for Catt’s report, “A Summary of Information Pertinent to the Women’s and Non-Revenue Intercollegiate Sports Fee,” only four universities in the Big 12 bring in revenue from both student fees and optional student ticket sales.
Texas Tech, for example, has a required $57.20 fee built in to a student’s tuition that pays for entry to all athletic events. Kansas, on the other hand, has a required $25 fee and an optional $150 student ticket package combination, which includes entry to football and basketball games.
Kansas State gives students three different options for ticket packages. The most expensive is a $295 “ICAT” football and men’s basketball combo pass offering students premiere seating, two T-shirts, early entry and priority on post-season events.
Of the four schools, Kansas’ all sports package is the cheapest by nearly $100, and its required fee is the second lowest.
Of the nine Big 12 schools accounted for in Catt’s report (TCU is a private institution and not required to disclose its financial information), Kansas ranks sixth in total student support between its ticket sales and student-fee-generated revenue.
If the fee were removed, Kansas Athletics would stand last in financial student support, nearly $1 million behind Oklahoma — currently last in the conference.
What if the fee goes?
Both Jim Marchiony and Pat Kaufman, Kansas Athletics CFO, stressed the importance of this fee for the University’s compliance with Title IX standards.
“It’s an important piece of our effort to ensure travel for women’s and non-revenue sports is equitable,” Marchiony said.
The question of the fee’s necessity remains at the heart of Student Senate’s debate.
Student Senate has $50,000 this year in funding for student organizations — a third of what previous Senates have been able to disburse, according to a previous Kansan report. Athletics’ revenue totaled $93.6 million in 2013.
“Should this budget hole exist, the student-athlete experience would change very little,” Catt said on Monday. “I think there would be a way to make up that revenue.”
If the fee is lowered or eliminated Kansas Athletics will have to find an alternate way to sustain its current level of funding. Marchiony was asked if that includes raising the $150 student ticket package.
“Everything would be on the table,” Marchiony said. “We would search in every way possible to raise the money.”
In Monday’s meeting, Debbie Van Saun, senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator, said the support from the University goes a long way for women’s and non-revenue sports.
“This University and this institution has chosen to not make it always about the dollars and the cents,” Van Saun said. “This institution found it philosophically appropriate as a whole to support women’s and non-revenue sports.”