Hidden Student Fees Diverted To Athletics - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Attention Parents: Hidden Student Fees Diverted To Athletics

USATODAY.COM - Linda Randall says her daughter, Randi-Lyn, a student at Radford University in southwestern Virginia, is not a "die-hard" follower of the Highlanders sports teams.

Even so, by the time Randi-Lyn graduates in 2012, her parents probably will have paid an average of nearly $1,000 a year in fees to the school's athletics department. They just didn't know it from the school's billing statements or website.

"We're looking at five years because she changed majors. That's $5,000," Randall says. "That's one of her loans. That would have paid rent off-campus for a year. It's kind of disheartening. I don't think I'd have as much of a problem with it if I knew I was paying it. With what we're paying, it doesn't seem right."

Like most other schools in NCAA Division I, Radford relies on student fees to help support ever-expanding athletics budgets. Many schools, including Radford, do not itemize where those fees go for those who pay the tuition bills, USA TODAY found in an ongoing examination of college athletics finances. The amounts going to athletics are soaring, and account for as much as 23% of the required annual bill for in-state students.

Students were charged more than $795 million to support sports programs at 222 Division I public schools during the 2008-09 school year, according to an analysis of thousands of pages of financial documents. Adjusting for inflation, that's an 18% jump since 2005, making athletics funding at public schools a key force in the rapidly escalating cost of higher education.

At nearly all schools, various mandatory fees are tacked on to tuition, and can cover everything from student health care to computers. But the largest portion often goes toward running the school's athletics department. In exchange, students typically get free or reduced admission to sporting events.

But when demand exceeds available student seating, some students can get shut out. Many aren't interested in the games anyway.

"She does go to some of the games," Linda Randall says of her daughter, "and it's nice that they let them in free. ... But she's going there for the (academics); she's not going to fund athletics."

There were 42 Division I athletics departments that reported receiving no student-fee money in 2009, but some of those schools say student-fee money is included in institutional funding provided to athletics programs. Many schools help cover the gap between their athletics departments' expenses and revenue because they regard sports teams — especially football and men's basketball teams — as important parts of campus life and excellent vehicles for generating publicity and alumni support.

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