Pay to play remains nearly unchanged for third straight year

Published 10:48 am Saturday, July 29, 2023

EAST LANSING — Participation continued to bounce back at Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools during the 2022-23 school year, but the percentage of those schools charging fees to participate in sports was nearly unchanged for the third-straight year as it remained near its lowest rate of the last two decades.

Just 41 percent of MHSAA member schools charged participation fees during the 2022-23 school year, following 40 percent using them during 2021-22 and 41 percent in 2020-21.

The MHSAA participation fee survey has measured the prevalence of charging students to help fund interscholastic athletics annually since the 2003-04 school year. The percentage of member schools charging fees crossed 50 percent in 2010-11 and reached a high of 56.6 percent in 2013-14 before falling back to 50 percent or below. The survey showed 48 percent of member schools charged fees during 2019-20, the first school year affected by COVID-19, before the substantial reduction followed as programs continued to navigate the pandemic.

Of the 574 schools (77 percent of membership) which responded to the 2022-23 survey, 234 assessed a participation fee, while 340 did not during the past school year. For the purposes of the survey, a participation fee was anything $20 or more regardless of what the school called the charge (registration fee, insurance fee, etc.).

Class A schools, as in past years, made up the largest group charging fees, with 55 percent of respondents doing so. Class B and Class D schools followed, with 41 and 36 percent charging fees, respectively, and 30 percent of Class C schools also charged for participation.

Among schools assessing fees, a standardized fee for each team on which a student-athlete participates – regardless of the number of teams – has shown for a number of years to be the most popular method, with that rate unchanged in 2022-23 at 46 percent of schools with fees. Next again were 33 percent of assessing schools charging a one-time standardized fee per student-athlete, followed by 14 percent assessing fees based on tiers of the number of sports a student-athlete plays (for example, charging a larger fee for the first team and less for additional sports).

The amounts of participation fees have remained relatively consistent over the last decade. For 2022-23, the median annual maximum fee per student was again $150, although the median maximum fee per family increased slightly to $350 — up $50 from 2021-22. The median fee assessed by schools that charge student-athletes once per year was $120 for the second straight, and the median fee for schools that assess per team on which a student-athlete plays was $100, up from $75 in 2021-22.

As reported earlier this month, participation in MHSAA-sponsored sports continued to climb in 2022-23, up 2.7 more percent for a combined 9.9-percent increase over the last two school years.