Editorial: Athletics fee increase not worth it for students
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 01:02
In what has become an annual occurrence, the UNH athletics fee is set to rise again, this time by 3 percent for fiscal year 2014, raising it to $983 per student. Instead of merely voting to reject that increase, as they have in the past to no effect, the Student Senate instead voted on Sunday night to try to find a way to make that fee yield higher returns for students.
Credit Student Activity Fee Committee Chair Bryan Merrill for conducting research into just how much of the activity fee is returned to students. The fee for the 2012-13 academic year was $954. The only quantifiable value that students get for paying this fee is free admittance to all home athletics games. According to Merrill, if a student attends five home football games and 10 home hockey games, that student is only using about $220 of the fee, based on ticket prices. The rest is still used by the athletics program, of course, for various purposes.
These numbers help illustrate a simple fact: the consistent rise in the athletics fee is not worth it for the majority of students on campus.
It should, however, be noted that the athletics program has value beyond free entertainment.
The athletics department is in the unenviable position of being a lower tier Division 1 school. UNH does not have the TV contracts or booster donations that many larger Division 1 colleges have to bolster their revenues, yet it still competes on the same level.
Merrill’s formula is not perfect. It does not include all of the athletic events that are free to all, both students and non-students, but still cost money to run. And it doesn’t account for the value that a strong athletics program brings to a university. Athletics foster a sense of community and pride among the student population while playing a large role in maintaining the bond between UNH and its alumni. While it is difficult to put that value into a dollar amount, it certainly exists and is vital to UNH.
But that intangible value does not mean that an annual increase is justifiable when, according to Merrill, if a student were to attend every ticketed home game, he or she would still only be using $675 of the athletics fee, coming up nearly $300 short of using the entire fee. Even Merrill’s original scenario, in which a student attended all five home football games and 10 hockey games, is unusual for many UNH students.
Athletic Director Marty Scarano said in today’s issue that the athletic department requires approximately $26 million a year to run. He said that the athletics department cannot afford to have the fee decreased at all. That still does not explain the increases in the fee over the past few years.
Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs Mark Rubenstein said that Scarano and his staff have “worked hard to control costs.” Then why the yearly increase to what is already far and away the largest mandatory fee at UNH? Surely cutting costs should yield some sort of savings for UNH students. At the very least, it shouldn’t result in students paying more year after year.
The consistent rise in the athletics fee is something that cannot continue. Students are already footing soaring tuition bills thanks to the cuts in state funding to UNH. They should not have to do the same for the athletics department, especially if it cannot make the investment in the athletic fee more worthwhile. UNH students graduate with some of the highest levels of debt in the nation. The athletic department should not be adding to that burden.