Athletic fee yields free tickets, but leaves some out in the cold

This year, every student paid $90 for 362 students to play sports. Next year, it will be $100.

The $90 per student added up to 17 percent of the entire athletics budget and was the third-highest fee paid by students, behind the building and computer fees. The fee will go up next year because the travel and other expenses have gone up. Scholarships are also more expensive because tuition is rising, said Chris Hill, director of athletics.

At $50 a semester, the U’s athletic fee will be the most expensive in the state. Utah State University students pay $49 per semester and Weber State students pay $37. It is less than other schools in the Mountain West Conference like Colorado State, where students pay $53 per semester.

One benefit of the fee is that students can attend any sports event for free.

But it isn’t fair to say that’s the reason for the fee, Hill said, because not everyone goes to the events.

It’s hard to show what exactly the money is used for because it becomes part of the larger athletics budget. The $18 million budget is generated from many sources, said Paul Brinkman, vice president of budget and planning.

Nearly one-third of that budget is funded by football and men’s basketball, but many other sports require more money than they generate.

The lowest fee students will pay, $1.88 per year, is for fine arts.

Like many sports, the performances and exhibitions sponsored by the College of Fine Arts cost more money than they generate.

Because there is so little funding for their programs, art and music students have to make up the difference themselves.

Stephanie Symons, a percussionist, and Matthew Wendell, a music education major, are both required to pay $350 a semester for private lessons they’re required to have for their program.

“I love going to games and I think [paying fees is] worth it for free tickets,” Symons said.

But she also said she was surprised the athletes don’t have to pay for their own uniforms and equipment. “I don’t understand. Athletics isn’t really a major. Why do students have to pay for extracurricular activities?” Wendell said.

Christina Hafen, a photography major, said she pays upward of $500 per semester for supplies and has to fund her own art exhibits.

Hafen said she wasn’t aware that part of her student fees went to athletics.

“It’s kind of frustrating for an art major because I don’t attend any of those events,” she said.

But track and field athletes Katie Decker and Natalie Hammons said that although their uniforms and coaches are paid for by the athletics department, there are still a lot of expenses they have to pay out of pocket.

Hammons estimated she spends about $400 a year on shoes and work-out equipment.

Both will travel to Arkansas next week to represent the U in a national NCAA indoor track meet. “I feel proud to be from Utah and the U and to be able to run with other great athletic schools,” Hammons said. “It’s nice to get our name up there and say we have a voice, too.”

Whether or not the value of athletics to a university is worth the cost is a good question and something to keep thinking about, Hill said.

“It’s a phenomenon of our academic institutions that they have athletics attached to them. It’s part of our culture,” Hill said.

The diversity and sense of community athletics bring to campus make it a tremendous value to the university, he said.

For the small investment the U puts into sports, it does a great deal for the image of the U, campus life and the lives of the athletes, Hill said.

“If people don’t go to games and don’t want to pay fees, that’s stupid because they’re benefiting other people [with their fees],” Decker said.

If they have to pay the fees anyway, students might as well enjoy a game, she added.

“I think we give and take and it balances,” Hammons said.

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