UMass uses OUR tuition to pay for the football program

We paid $40,804,243.29 for sports between 2010 and 2014

Nothing says “UMass” more than the stuffy Zumba classes, greasy weight benches, and ceaseless ellipticals at the Rec Center. I will always feel a sense of sweaty nostalgia running on a treadmill, gazing past the soccer fields, watching construction workers piece together the $22 million dollar John Francis Kennedy Champions Center across the street.

While we are fortunate to attend a university willing to invest in these state-of-the-art student facilities, progress does not come without a cost.

Recently the Huffington Post and Chronicle of Higher Education published a study on the athletic revenue and expense reports of 234 public universities which compete in Division I sports.

They found many universities, especially those without big donors or decorated sports teams, rely heavily on subsidies to fund their growing athletics programs. “Subsidies” in this study refers to the money a school invests in its athletic program to make up for lack of earned revenue.

Where do these subsidies come from? Student fees.

According to the report, student fees at UMass Amherst accounted for 27 percent of the $151,126,827 athletic department budget between 2010 and 2014. Fees are the second largest contributor to the athletic department’s budget, second only to “institutional support” (53 percent), and way more than ticket sales (five percent), NCAA support (five percent), and other revenues (10 percent) combined.

UMass is not the only college using student fees to enhance their athletic programs. In the last two decades, 32 universities made the jump to the lucrative world of Division I athletics. In the last five years, public universities collectively charged more than $10.3 billion in mandatory athletic fees to fund the growth.

UMass Amherst charged students $41 million in fees which went towards athletics during that time. James Madison University, by far the worst offender in the study, charged $142 million, 80 percent of it coming from student fees.

Now UMass is joining the Division I economy, they need the money and infrastructure to sustain it. Last year renovations to McGuirk Stadium cost $34.5 million, so UMass rehired Coach Mark Whipple for $450,000 a year with hopes that he can turn over a profitable team.

Granted, this is a small salary compared to other college coaches making millions, but it’s still a lot for the coach of arguably the worst football team in the country.

The Huffington Post study reached an upsetting conclusion:

“Our reporting revealed that many schools are cutting academic programs and raising tuition, while at the same time funneling even more money into athletics. We found that schools that subsidize sports the most also tend to have the poorest students, who are often borrowing to pay for their educations.”

Using student fees to finance profit-driven athletics departments is wrong, especially because many students, already struggling to finance their education, are unaware the fees even exist.

Forty percent of students in a poll conducted by the Journal of Sport said they were uncertain whether they paid athletics fees, and many said they would oppose an athletics fee if they knew about it.

There is no explicit athletics fee at UMass, rather the annual Service Fee ($709.50) says it “provides access to intercollegiate athletic programs for undergraduates” and costs just about as much as a year’s worth of UMass varsity season tickets.

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