Cash-Strapped Students At Smaller Texas Schools Shell Out More For Athletics, Report Says

College football programs at schools like the University of North Texas and Texas State University charge more for mandatory athletics fees than D-1 powerhouses like UT and Texas A&M.

By Lucía Benavides & Hady MawajdehMarch 22, 2016 1:40 pm, ,

The University of North Texas (UNT) has recently tacked on a $15 athletic fee included in full-time students’ per-semester bills. The university will charge this fee to cover athletic needs and costs. And it’s not just UNT – athletic fees are part of a larger trend of Texas schools reaching into students’ pockets to help pay for the rising costs of college sports.

Both revenues – and expenses – have gone up dramatically since 2010 for Texas universities. Some are having a harder time keeping up. While the use of students’ money to fund athletics is alarming to some people, others are all for it.

Matthew Watkins, reporter for the Texas Tribune, reviewed the annual financial reports submitted to the NCAA from all eight public universities in Texas that play Division I football, the highest level of college football. He says expenses have grown at all schools, but those expenses haven’t affected the bottom line at bigger schools like the University of Texas and Texas A&M. Smaller schools, like UNT and Texas State, haven’t been able to meet the growing expenses.

“They’re doing that in two ways – transferring money from the universities’ general funds over to athletics, or raising student fees, the mandatory fees that students pay to support athletics,” he says.

Watkins says he sees a “contradiction” between larger schools not needing money from students because of their sizable non-student fan bases and smaller schools needing money, despite their smaller fan bases.

“Because there’s such huge fan support (at larger universities) they don’t need that mandatory money from the students,” he says. “It’s the schools where the students are perceived to care a little bit less where the students are actually having to chip in more money.”

Last year, students at smaller schools were charged a combined $57 million in mandatory fees, more than double the $27 million students at those same schools were charged in 2007. Watkins says these smaller schools charge increased fees based on two basic principles – the notion of having to “spend money to make money” and the idea that athletics are the school’s primary advertising source.