Is the athletic fee costing students ‘an arm and a leg’?

Western Carolina University Football Stadium. Barrett Boyles. 2014.

Western Carolina University Football Stadium. Barrett Boyles. 2014.

Shouting “purple!”, “gold!” at the top of students’ lungs, stadiums full of nothing but purple shirts and painted faces. The tailgates and the catamount pride at Western Carolina University is all for the NCAA Division  athletics the university participates in.

But this pride comes with a price that some students are not too happy with. 

At WCU, students pay around $4315.00 a semester (or $9511.50 for out of state students), this includes tuition costs as well as other fees students have to pay such as Health Insurance, book rental, campus security….  Of those fees, over two thirds (the second biggest after the health insurance) , or $ 413 per semester fund WCU’s athletics.

The break down:

The tuition and fees break down can be found on WCU’s website. The $4315.00 students pay per semester does not include costs such as a meal plan or housing on campus, only the tuition and required fees.

Under the required fees, students pay for things such as the health center on campus, extracurricular activities (intramural sports, concerts, the REC center, etc.), book rental, transportation, student government, campus security, health insurance (which can be waived for the student if insured by an independent company), and athletics. A few other categories are shown in the graph below.

Graph of Student Fees constructed by Meghan O'Sullivan based on information taken from WCU's website.

Graph of Student Fees constructed by Meghan O’Sullivan based on information taken from WCU’s website.

The athletic fee, which costs students a total of $413 a semester,  funds the NCAA Division sports that WCU participates in.

The fee breaks down into two parts, for $365 a semester, students pay for things such as team travel, recruitment, repairs, and equipment. The remaining $48 a semester, pays for the athletic facilities such as the football stadium, Ramsey Center, the fields for softball and baseball, the athletic complex for track and tennis, as well as weight rooms, training rooms, and a team room (facilities used mainly for athletes.)

In total, each student at WCU pays $826 a year to fund NCAA Division athletics.

WCU spends a total of $11,436,428 a year on athletics to fund the teams and coaches’ salaries. Of that total cost, students pay for $7,581,603. This means students fund 66.3% of the total athletic budget.


What do WCU students think?

Screenshot taken by Meghan O'Sullivan from post on WCU '18 Facebook Page.

Screenshot taken by Meghan O’Sullivan from post on WCU ’18 Facebook Page.

When asking students around WCU’s campus about the fee, it was difficult to find people with opinions on the matter, so we took to Facebook.

The athletic fee break down was posted onto a Facebook page used only for WCU students called “Residential Living Class of 2018”, asking for student opinions.

The students had mixed feelings, some agreeing with the fee, some disagreeing and opposing the fee.

Student Caroline Frasca was one of the first to reply.

“I think students, who are already paying tremendous amounts for a meal plan, living spaces, and classes, should not have to pay additional fees to provide for the athletics teams (especially if they aren’t involved or even attend the games). Sure, they represent the school, but so does the band, the arts students, and every other department. I know we pay for other facilities such as the gym, and not everyone uses that, but there’s a huge difference between paying a small amount for a facility that is accessible to us compared to paying a large chunk of our tuition solely for something we have no involvement with,” Frasca stated.

Student Malachi Hamilton agreed with Frasca, believing the fee was too expensive.

“I’ve always been against it. I support the athletes fully, but I’m not an athlete for the school, I just play intramurals, so I think that it’s the athletes and their families who should pay that fee, not everyone else,” Hamilton stated.

Along with students who oppose the fee, there are students at WCU who find the fee necessary and reasonable.

“Perfectly fine with it. How else are they going to raise that money? If we don’t pay that fee, and the school covers more of the cost…then that starts to effect the money allocated to education such as teacher pay,” student Tyler Tarbet stated.

Tarbet added that the fee is much like tax dollars, money people pay to fund the government just as students pay to fund the athletics department.

Student Taylor Kinter also agreed with paying the athletics fee.

“I see why people would complain about that being put in their tuition. However, I think that it’s fairly reasonable. They aren’t asking you to pay thousands of dollars for it each year. I realize it adds up but if we didn’t give money for it there wouldn’t be any sports teams.”

Both groups of students, those who oppose the fee and those who find it reasonable, felt very strongly about their opinions, discussing the topic for a few hours on the Facebook page.

Is an athletic fee necessary for students?

Professor at WCU sports management program, Dr. Kadence Otto says it is a disappointment to her that all levels of leadership through the state and the university are giving the “OK” to put this financial burden on students.

Otto’s expertise is in corruption in college athletics and had appeared on several different media outlets such as ESPN, CNN, and USA Today.

She shows her students these numbers, even putting them in her quizzes, to make students more aware of where their money goes, and to show students that they can have a say in where their money goes by attending the budget hearings on campus.

“I’m not opposed to having students help subsidize the athletic budget, but I just think it needs to be reasonable,” Otto said in an interview about the subject. She believes these high costs are unnecessary expenses put on students just trying to earn an education, in her research other schools are covering these costs.

WCU Athletics director, Randy Eaton. Photo from WCU Athletics.

WCU Athletics director, Randy Eaton says the athletic fee is connected to Title IX. Photo from WCU Athletics.

WCU’s Director of Athletics, Randy Eaton, says the athletics fee is primarily utilized to ensure WCU is on track and making progress towards the requirements under Title IX.

Title IX  is a federal law that applies to all educational institutions that receive federal funds.

The law essentially has to do with eliminating gender discrimination in these institutions; according to the NCAA website under Title IX, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Each institution has to follow requirements under Title IX, such as having equal supplies for both men and women teams, financial requirements, and having equal accommodations for each sport in the institution, according to Eaton, if these requirements are not met the Federal Government can withhold federal dollars from the University and stop offering Pell Grants and guaranteed loans to WCU students.

In order for WCU to meet the requirements under Title IX, fees are placed in the students’ tuition, so that WCU can continue to have an athletics program.

“Many students are attracted to institutions with vibrant athletic programs.  One of our goals within the WCU Athletic Department, per the University’s 20/20 Vision Strategic Plan  (Initiative 2.3.1), is to build and sustain a high-quality athletics program that excites and instills pride among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the University,” said Eaton in an emailed response.

Eaton also said that WCU has increased corporate sponsorships, donations, and ticket revenues to athletics substantially over the past four years. According to Eaton, WCU went from having the highest “operating” student fee in the UNC system to being ranked eight of 15 UNC institutions that participate in NCAA Division sports.

So…how do YOU feel about the Athletics fee on campus? Write to us and let us know!