The Cassopolis district recently decided to charge athletes to participate in sports for the 2012-13 school year. (Daily Star Photo/File)

Archived Story

Pay to play holds steady

Published 1:48pm Thursday, June 28, 2012

EAST LANSING — Although the use of participation fees to help fund interscholastic athletics in Michigan high schools has doubled during the last nine years, the percentage of schools assessing them has held steady over the last two, according to surveys taken by the Michigan High School Athletic Association of its member institutions.

The most recently completed survey indicates that of 514 member schools participating, 260 schools — 50.5 percent — charged participation fees during the 2011-12 school year. In the 2010-11 survey, fees were being used at 50.4 percent of schools participating.

There were 761 senior high schools in the MHSAA membership this school year — the survey generated a response rate of 68 percent. This was the ninth survey of schools since the 2003-04, when members reported that fees were being used in 24 percent of schools.

The most recent survey also showed that fees incurred by students who paid once for an entire year of participation increased slightly from 2010-11 to 2011-12 — although the maximum fee per family decreased slightly.

The most popular method of assessing participation fees continues to be a payment for each sport an athlete goes out for, used by 41.5 percent of schools in 2011-12. That median fee among schools in the survey has increased only $5, to $75, since 2009-10.

A standardized annual fee per student was used by 24.5 percent of schools in the past year. Since Fall 2003, that fee has increased from $75 to $120 — a 60 percent increase — with the fee increasing $20 per athlete from 2010-11 to 2011-12.

Beginning with the 2004-05 survey, schools were asked in the survey if they had a cap on what individual student-athletes and families could be charged. Caps on student fees have been used by the majority of schools, but that number has dropped from 71.3 percent in 2004-05 to 55 percent in 2011-12.

However, the number of schools instituting a cap on what a family pays has increased from 41 percent having a limit in 2004-05 to 49 percent in 2011-12.

Other data from the 2011-12 survey shows 64.5 percent of schools with participation fees have some kind of fee reduction or waiver program in place based on existing programs for subsidized lunch and milk (down from 68 percent in 2010-11); that 14 percent of schools using fees report a drop in participation; and that slightly more than one percent of schools report losing students to other school districts because they are charging fees.

Five percent of schools not assessing fees in 2011-12 report transfers to their districts because of the absence of fees. Also, seven percent of schools not assessing fees had done so previously.

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