Athletics fee increase to fund scholarships, more

Students will now have to pay $175 per semester because of the $25 increase in the athletics fee. The athletics fee is a mandatory fee-regardless of a student’s involvement in Tech athletics.Along with all other fee increase request, the athletics fee was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents during the quarterly meeting last Friday.

Senior communications major Aleksandr Peterson questioned his requirement to pay the mandatory fee.

“I really could care less if sports even existed,” Peterson said. “I’ve been at Tech four years now, and I haven’t attended a single sporting event, nor do I plan to. I don’t think it’s fair to be charged a substantial amount of money for a service I don’t use.”

The athletics department is funded in three ways: direct institutional support, the athletics fee and athletics revenue. All money generated from these sources supports the collegiate athletics program.

“I think the majority of students at Tech do take advantage of collegiate athletics,” Athletics Director Mark Wilson said. “That doesn’t mean they attend every sporting event, but through the course of the year, the majority of students benefit from collegiate athletics, whether they are attending an event or from the value that Tech athletics bring in terms of exposure to the campus.”

Ashley Smith, also a senior communications major, directly benefited from Tech athletics.

“Tech athletics brought me to this school,” Smith said, “and being involved in athletics helped improve my team building skills and gave me motivation to keep my grades up.”

The athletics fee increase requests are passed on to University administration by Wilson as part of the athletics budget process and are then reviewed before being passed on to the TBR. Wilson decides the amount that is proposed based on economic and financial needs of the athletic department relative to the fiscal budget.

“The reason we have been asking for increases of the student athletic fee is to deal with our uncontrollable inflationary expenses,” Wilson said. “Our primary uncontrollable inflationary expense is to keep up with the cost of scholarships. Tuition, fees, meals, and housing all make up part of an NCAA scholarship.”

The fee also increased by $25 last semester, bringing the total to $150 for this semester. Students enrolled for Fall 2011 will be paying $175. From the time the fee was implemented, it has been mandatory.

“Tuition and fees go up on an annual basis,” Wilson said. “We are budgeted for 200 scholarships that support division one athletics, so if you equate what the individual student has to come up with for the increases in tuition, fees, meals, and housing with us in athletics, its like we’re doing that for 200 of our own children.”

The athletics fee paid by students is not being used to fund the new Athletic Performance Center. The fee is only for athletic operations, such as scholarships, team travel, recruiting travel, supplies, and personnel. Scholarships make up about 50 percent of the athletic budget.

“I wish I could say there was relief ahead, but I don’t think there will be any, based on the economy and the fact the support from the state is decreasing,” Wilson said.

During the TBR’s quarterly meeting that approved all fee requests, Regent John Farris said they are hoping to move toward a more unified fee system for TBR universities over time.

“We’re becoming more reliant on students to fund the cost of education at Tech in general. We are just a segment of what’s going on across the entire campus.