Thursday, May 26, 2022
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UMKC Considers Student Fee Increase to Cut Athletics’ Deficit

UMKC Athletics is considering a potential increase of student fees supporting the funding of the athletics department.

Currently students pay $4.81 per credit hour—up to 12 credit hours—to help fund athletics. This amounted to about $1.2 million in funding in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

“We know that we have students who support athletics,” said Carla Wilson, Director of Athletics. “We would like to sometime in the future talk with them about maybe increasing that support.”

The increase in student fees exists only as a concept at this time with no potential timeline for its implementation.

The motivating factor behind this idea is the athletics program’s deficit in funding. However, the extent of this deficit is unknown.

Contributing towards this issue is UMKC’s subsidization of its Division I sports teams. UMKC implemented its Division I men’s basketball team following the departure of the Kansas City Kings’ professional basketball team in 1985.

An article by The Huffington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education explored the subsidization of university athletics departments in the United States. Nearly 130 departments were evaluated based upon the 2010-2014 NCAA financial reports, with UMKC ranking 21st amongst them. According to their analysis, UMKC Athletics is 82 percent subsidized.

“Yes, we are subsidized higher than some other places. We are also lower in student fees than some division one schools,” Wilson said. “It’s usually a trade off at this level. You’re usually high in subsidies from the institution and low in student fees, or you’re high in student fees and low in subsidies.”

According to The Huffington Post, UMKC Athletics receives around $36 million in subsidies—14 percent or $5,040,000 comes from student support. The other 86 percent amounting to $30,960,000 is provided by UMKC.

According to Wilson, UMKC’s institutional support of the athletics department amounts to around three percent of the university’s available funds.

John Martellaro, Director of Media Relations, provided more in-depth statistics concerning the universities funding for the current fiscal year.

According to Martellaro, campus total expenses can be reported in two different ways—unrestricted current funds and total current funds. Total current funds includes restricted gifts and grants.

UMKC’s unrestricted current funds amount to $286.9 million while their total current funds come to $332 million.

Institutional support for Athletics makes up 3.8 percent of unrestricted current funds—about $10,871,420—and 3.3 percent of total current funds—$10,956,000.

Wilson expressed the athletics department’s desire to even the divide between institutional support and student fees.

“We’d like to balance that out some, and we would like to definitely work towards bringing that institutional support down,” Wilson said.

The extensive subsidization of UMKC Athletics is a direct consequence of their standing as a Division I NCAA program.

According to Wilson it is not unusual for athletics departments to be subsidized.

“The reason I think that universities invest in their athletics programs and subsidize them is because of the other opportunities that it brings to their universities,” Wilson said. “There’s more to it than just the financials.”

Wilson believes that the exposure universities can earn through a Division I program is invaluable.

She explained that Division I teams who play in the NCAA tournament see increases in enrollment, applications and visibility. These benefits tie into UMKC’s strategic plan to increase enrollment.

“Winning is the driver. [In Athletics] It’s important to be successful on the playing field. If you build it they will come,” Wilson said. “Ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, donors, will invest more heavily when they see a winning program.”

While the aforementioned subsidization statistics may not be exact comparisons, they raise an important question—should students pay more for athletics?

Since its entrance into the Division I bracket, the UMKC Kangaroos men’s basketball team has never participated in the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament.

In the past 13 years the Kangaroos have only had four winning seasons—2010-2011, 2005-2006, 2004-2005, and 2003-2004.

Dr. Joan Dean, a UMKC professor and former member of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, expressed concerns over student support of Athletics.

“The basketball program has never delivered. It’s nothing against any of the athletes. It’s nothing against any of the people here now,” Dean said. “Maybe students should think, ‘Should we be paying for this?’”

Dean believes that it is up to students to make a difference in terms of UMKC’s fraught athletic tradition.

While many NCAA Division I programs are subsidized, there are those that are not.

A prime example is Mizzou’s Missouri Tigers men’s basketball team. The Huffington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education’s analysis of Mizzou’s athletics program revealed that only three percent of their funding comes from subsidies. Of this percentage, 100 percent of the subsidization is from institutional support.

The Tigers have played in the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament 26 different times. Their official NCAA record is 19 wins and 25 losses.

Speaking to UMKC Athletics’ funding deficit and subsidization, Wilson commented that UMKC has a plan in place to not increase their deficit. According to Wilson, they have maintained this goal for the past two years.

Wilson stated that UMKC hopes to pay off this deficit by 2020, but several things need to happen. Firstly, UMKC would have to produce a winning athletics program. Secondly, the potential increase of student fees supporting athletics would play a major role. Wilson also stated that UMKC would need to win the WAC Tournament.

According to Wilson, UMKC has seen an increase in donor support and corporate sponsorships for Athletics in the last three years. She believes this is due in part to the hiring of a new basketball coach—Kareem Richardson— in 2013 and the recruitment of local talent.

“We are heading in the right direction,” Wilson said. “Realize that it doesn’t happen overnight and we are making the right moves in order to get us to that position.”

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