Lauren Forthofer

Blinded by the Bill

The un-mentioned usage of student fees for college athletic budgets

By - Lauren Forthofer


Students and parents across Ohio are unknowingly paying millions of dollars to their college athletic departments. Universities in the Mid-American Conference are receiving up to $48 PER credit hour from their students. Institutions like Miami University are collecting $902 from each full-time student for its athletic department in ONE academic year. This amount is taken directly from the student's general fee fund, but is nowhere indicated that the charges will be used for athletic purposes. These athletic fees are NOT indicated on a student's individual bill leaving many unaware that these payments even exist.

All MAC colleges require students to pay a general student fee on top of their tuition charges. This general fee is then dispersed and used towards other areas of the university such as libraries, rec centers, health centers and athletic departments. At Miami, a student enrolled for a 3-credit course will pay $126 to the Miami Athletic Department from that course fee. This leaves a full-time, 11 credit hour student at Miami paying $451 per semester and $902 per academic school year towards Miami athletics. 57% of the Miami University athletic budget is funded strictly from student fees. But like the other twelve out of thirteen MAC schools that agreed to provide information, Miami and eleven others do NOT have an itemized breakdown of these fees on the student's bill. Eight out of these thirteen also do not provide a breakdown available anywhere online.

The students are paying for the athletic departments at all of the MAC schools. Portions from their required student fees are taken and dispersed to the athletic departments but are never informed that their money is being used for this purpose. Being uninformed is limiting the student's ability to ask questions and seek answers about these charges. Ohio University ranks the highest, having 81% of its university's athletic budget coming straight from the student's general fee fund. That means 81% of all money used for OU athletics is paid for directly by the students. This also means that students are paying $48.27 PER registered credit hour towards their athletic department. This information can be found nowhere on the bill given to its students. If one wanted to access this breakdown elsewhere, it takes NINE very specific steps provided by a university official to locate the fees listed online.

Seven out of the thirteen MAC schools receive at least 30% of their university's athletic budget directly from the student fees. Kent State, Bowling Green, Akron, Miami and OU all receive more than 60% of their athletic budgets from the student's general fees, yet none of these schools feel it is necessary to include these numbers on the bill for students and parents to see. (student fees) Twelve out of thirteen MAC schools do NOT provide an itemized breakdown of their fees on a student's bill. The itemized breakdown of fees and a copy of the university athletic budget were requested from the University of Toledo. They said the information being asked for was too complicated to put together and could take weeks to provide. Three weeks and one public records request later, they did submit a copy of their athletic budget. It does not show how much money is being received from student fees.

Not only are the finances for these athletic budgets coming directly from the pockets of students and parents, but according to a report by the Knight Commission, spending towards college athletics has been on the rise since 2005. University spending per athlete in comparison to spending per academic student is considerably high. (FIGURE 1)

Not only are the finances for these athletic budgets coming directly from the pockets of students and parents, but according to a report by the Knight Commission, spending towards college athletics has been on the rise since 2005. University spending per athlete in comparison to spending per academic student is considerably high.

Figure 1 Source: http://www.knightcommission.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=553&Itemid=183

The importance and focus on education appears to be a minority in relationship to athletic ability and success. The Knight Commission also found that between 2005 and 2008 the MAC spent $21,504 more per athlete than they did per student. (FIGURE 8)

The importance and focus on education appears to be a minority in relationship to athletic ability and success.  The Knight Commission also found that between 2005 and 2008 the MAC spent $21,504 more per athlete than they did per student.

Figure 8 Source: http://www.knightcommission.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=553&Itemid=183

The University of Toledo refused to provide an itemized breakdown of its student fees. Not only did it refuse, but it claims its university does not even have a breakdown on file nor is there a way for them to even begin to break those numbers down. In regards to the breakdown of student fees in relationship to the UT Athletic Department, Student Account Specialist Judy Aldrich confirmed: "NO itemized breakdown of student fees is available anywhere for anyone. That number varies and is not in the boards books. There is no way of knowing what percent or dollar amount goes towards the athletic department." UT has a very vague breakdown listed on their website, but still nothing that explains or even informs students of money being used towards athletics. When contacting the Assistant Bursar at the University of Toledo, Jeff Bowman, he said that they do not have a breakdown at their university. He said, "The money is put into one general account that acts somewhat like a 'Black Hole'. What's done with it after being put into that account; nobody really knows."

Although The University of Toledo did finally send a document containing the numbers for their athletic budget, an itemized breakdown was not provided. We still do not know how much of their student fees money is being used to fund their athletics, but we do know that they are skeptical of sharing that information. More importantly, we have university officials admitting that they are not keeping track of where certain dollar amounts are going.

All of the MAC colleges that participated in providing their information all have a similar issue: Itemized breakdowns of student fees are not provided on the students' bill. A few do provide this information online; however, it is still not easily accessible. Most of these universities said they would be willing to provide the information to students if they asked for it, but still don't feel the need to attach it to the bill.