Pay-to-play on the rise in Michigan high schools

Published 6:34 am Saturday, October 30, 2004

By Staff
EAST LANSING - The number of schools implementing participation fees for extracurricular athletic programs increased, but the level of the fees remained relatively stable for the 2004-05 school year, according to a survey conducted this Fall by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
In a voluntary online survey conducted during September, 551 member senior high schools and 346 member junior high/middle schools participated. Of those participating schools, 34.5 percent indicated that participation fees were being used at the high school level; and 32.7 percent indicated that fees were in place at the junior high middle school level. This is an increase in both categories, with 22.6 percent of senior high schools and 25 percent of junior high/middle schools responding to last year's survey indicating they were assessing fees.
While the number of schools with fee programs was up, the fees being charged were not. The survey again revealed that the most popular structures for participation fee programs at both levels were for students to pay on a per sport basis; or for a student to pay a one-time fee for the entire school year, regardless of the number of sports. For senior high school students paying on a per sport basis, $50 was the most often cited number for the second straight year, and the average per-sport fee was again $56. For students paying a single fee, the most used standardized fee was $100 for the second straight year, but the average rose slightly from $78 last year to $85 this year. The number of schools structuring their programs on a tiered basis – where a student receives a discounted rate for multi-sport participation – more than tripled from a year ago.
The statistics for junior high/middle schools followed a similar pattern. The most often used per sport fee number was shared between $30 and $50 this year, compared to $50 last year. The average per sport fee was $43 this year, compared to $38 a year ago. The most often assessed per student fee was $50 for the second straight year, and the average fee rose to $53 from $50 last year.
The survey also offered the following:
Of those senior high schools assessing participating fees for athletics, 24.2 percent were also charging fees for students participating in other extracurricular activities; up from 23 percent a year ago. Of those charging fees at the junior high/middle school level, 21.6 percent are also charging for other extra extracurricular activities, up from 5.9 percent in the previous survey.
Of those senior high schools assessing fees, 13.4 percent report a drop in participation in athletics. A participation drop was reported by 18.2 percent of junior high/middle schools charging fees.
Of those senior high schools not assessing fees, 7.9 percent indicate they have had students transfer into their district because fees were not being charged. Last year, that number was 3.9 percent. At the junior high/middle school level 5.8 percent of reporting schools indicate they have received transfer students because of a fully-funded extracurricular athletics program, compared to 4.7 percent a year ago.
The complete survey results can be found on the News and Administration pages of the MHSAA Web site or by visiting The MHSAA previously conducted participation fee surveys in the Falls of 1993 and 2003, and plans to conduct annual surveys on this topic in future years. Data from this year's survey will be compared against data gathered from the Association's annual participation survey in the Spring to determine the impact of fees on student participation in extracurricular athletics.
To access this release in HTML or PDF format, visit the MHSAA News page at For more media resources, go to the MHSAA Media Page at
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by over 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition.
No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract approximately 1.6 million spectators each year.