As a basketball fan, I’m delighted that five Virginia teams — UVa, Virginia Tech, VCU, ODU and Liberty — will participate in the NCAA tournament this month. That’s more than basketball powerhouse North Carolina (heh! heh!), and it may be more teams than from any other state. After UVa chokes early in the tournament, I’ll still have up to four other teams to root for!
I’m less enthralled, however, by the fact that the teams’ success has been funded in part by an increase in student fees, thus contributing to the higher-ed affordability crisis.
According to Richmond BizSense, revenue from the Virginia Commonwealth University athletics program has more than doubled in the past eight years, zooming from $16.3 million in FY 2010 to $34.2 million in FY 2017. The largest source of athletics revenue was student fees.
According to data provided by VCU, the athletic portion of its student fee has risen an average of $33 each year since the 2011-2012 school year. The student fee at VCU during the 2010-2011 school year was $558. In 2011-2012, it jumped to $610. The fee for the 2018-2019 school year is $827.
VCU’s defense is that the VCU student fee is lower than at most other public Virginia universities…. which is damning through faint praise indeed. Student fees are out of control at virtually every public institution.
As the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) found in its massive 2013 report on rising college costs:
In 2012, Virginia’s athletic programs generated only 31 percent of the revenue needed to cover their expenses, on average. … Because the programs do not generate sufficient revenue, most institutions heavily depend on mandatory student athletic fees to subsidize their athletic programs. … About 12 percent on average of what Virginia students paid in tuition and fees in 2012-13 was for intercollegiate athletics.
By all means, enjoy the NCAA tournament — and root for your home-state teams. Just remember, college presidents invest millions of dollars in athletics not for the students. They expand football and basketball programs because they know that alumni love rooting for the alma mater, and they know that happy, engaged alumni make bigger donations and leave bigger bequests. Thousands of lower-income Virginia students are piling up immense student-load debt to pay for athletic fees for your entertainment…. and for the empire-building ambitions of college administrators.There are currently no comments highlighted.