Report: Colleges Take Billions in Student Fees to Cover Athletics


A recently released report by The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Huffington Post shows that public universities have used $10.3 billion in mandatory fees to boost athletic programs over the last five years.  In that time, the average athletic subsidy rose by 16% while student fees, accounting for half of all subsidies, increased by 10%.

The survey of 201 public universities found only six Division I athletic programs to be able to support themselves and create a profit with outside revenue in 2014.  These schools included Louisiana State, Purdue, and state universities in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, and Ohio.

Results show 122 of the schools surveyed subsidized at least 50% of their athletic programs, writes Patricia Alex for

A number of universities were found to be requiring their students to pay more in support of the school’s sports program while at the same time increasing tuition, causing many students to need to take out larger loans to pay their increasing education bills.

These increases have been the cause of controversy on a number of campuses, igniting protests and drawing criticism from a number of lawmakers.  While some schools make enough to support their programs without the help of student fees, others, such as the College of William & Mary in Virginia, charged students over $1,500 in athletics fees in the 2014-15 school year, reports Brad Wolverton for The Huffington Post.

According to the report, colleges with the lowest revenue from ticket sales tended to have the highest subsidies.  The New Jersey Institute of Technology was found to be number one in this department, with 90% of funding for its athletics department coming through student fees in 2014.  The study found this to be the highest percentage of all the athletic departments involved, writes Adam Clark for

“All schools subsidize athletics because it helps promote the university,” said NJIT’s athletic director, Lenny Kaplan. “NJIT recruits a full range of students, including the brightest in the country, and they want a solid athletics program to help them become well-rounded citizens.”

Rutgers University was found to spend the most money overall, totaling $172 million, on their sports program in the past five years.  The university put $36.3 million in subsidies into its athletics program, bringing its total department budget to $77 million in 2014.  Around 47% of the budget was covered by school aid, including $10.3 million which came from student fees.  Revenue from ticket sales totaled around $10.7 million.

The school share was less than the subsidy of $47 million in 2013 when it was required to buyout its athletics director and men’s basketball coach at a costly price.

Some are concerned that another buyout could be in the works for the current football coach Kyle Flood after the team did not make it to a bowl game, as well as a scandal that involved six players being dismissed from the season early on after felony charges were brought against them.

School officials, however, believe that the university subsidy will continue to decrease as the school has now entered the Big Ten.  The move is expected to bring in additional revenue from television programming by 2021.