NDSU athletics says their costs are growing. And students should help foot the bills.
At open forums Jan. 22 and 25, Todd Phelps and Jack Maughan of NDSU athletics proposed a 35 percent increase in student fees funding athletics’ budget, increasing from $4.70 a credit to $6.37.
They said the needs for an increase are “to be more competitive with comparable universities, and to maintain the success that we have been having.”
Athletics’ proposal also includes perks of priority points for graduates attending athletics events and intramural and club use of athletic facilities such as the Dacotah Field bubble.
Phelps and Maughan met many questions and much criticism at their first presentation, where attendees called the priority points system “a gross misuse” of student fees and questioned why athletics requests a fee increase after a five-year plan from 2014 gave the department a $300,000 bump.
2014’s increase brought student fees funding athletics’ budget to $1.4 million, or 7 percent of athletics’ roughly $20 million budget.
Former student fee advisory board member Conner Swanson presented facts of the five-year plan Monday to Phelps and Maughan.
Swanson said it was understood in 2014 the increase he made the motion for athletics to receive was a five-year plan, quoting Walter Lanza, former office of finance executive commissioner from the 2014 SFAB minutes.
“And he said this is a five-year goal … but a five-year goal for funding and then the intention was to be back in five years to look at increases. … In the minutes, it does clearly say this was a five-year intention,” Swanson said.
“Fair enough,” Phelps said, after he and Maughan said that Pat Frederickson, associate athletics director for business, didn’t understand the increase was for five years.
“She didn’t really know about the not coming back in the five years, or didn’t recollect that, so we couldn’t get a clear answer on that,” Maughan said.
“We looked at it across the board … and what we’re able to discern from the conversation is that it wasn’t clear that this was projected out for five years,” Phelps said, adding factors of “costs and inflation” and “still not being on par with our peer institutions.”
Phelps and Maughan repeatedly referenced athletics’ budget and the differences among student fees funding similar universities’ athletics budgets.
Their PowerPoint showed the dollar amount of student fees and the percent contributed to athletics budgets while omitting the total amount of those budgets, which range greatly.
Students at Indiana State fund 61 percent of its athletics budget, or $8.28 million. Indiana State’s total athletics budget is $13.5 million, $6 million less than NDSU’s.
Western Illinois students contribute $3.86 million to their school’s athletics budget, or 32 percent. Western Illinois’ athletics budget is $12 million.
Southern Illinois’ athletics budget is $23 million with $8.53 million, or 37 percent, funded by students.
Students fund 15 percent, or $2.4 million, of Northern Iowa’s athletics’ budget, which is $16 million.
“I don’t like the justification of saying we don’t meet what our peer institutions meet because our budget is way larger than the rest of them,” Swanson said. “And that’s the argument of the athletics department.”
Institution data available online through the Department of Education reports NDSU athletics took in $22,316,980 in revenue between July 2014 and June 2015.
Minus total expenses for teams, revenue totaled $291,022 for all men’s and women’s teams last year.
Athletics received a student fee increase of about $300,000 in 2014, stemming from a motion Swanson made while on the SFAB at the time.
Swanson said at the time of the decision, Section 16 of the Fargodome was on the block to be taken away as student seating and sold for season tickets for $500,000.
“That was kind of billed as ‘We’re getting a better deal,'” Swanson said of the “tradeoff.”
2014’s increase brought student fees funneled to athletics from $1.1 million to $1.4 million. Athletics’ new proposal seeks to more than double student fees funding athletics’ budget to about $2.9 million, Phelps said.
Despite the agreement in 2014 to not return for five years for another increase, the five-year increase made then isn’t binding.
“It’s not a plan so as to say it’s concrete. It was a goal, kind of a promise. It was, ‘We won’t be back for five years,” Swanson said.
He added that entities receiving student fees adjust for increases in five-year increments.
Athletics also received an increase in 2009 before that five-year plan led to the 2014 increase of $300,000, originally approved for $365,000 by the SFAB, Swanson said.
Student health services, which last received an increase in 2010, managed to stretch it out to six years, as director Patricia Dirk said Monday in her forum presentation.
“That’s the goal across the board for pretty much all student fee increases,” Swanson said of five-year increases.
2016’s SFAB will meet Wednesday to vote on student fee increase proposals before its recommendations to Bresciani, who has the final sign-off, student body president Eric McDaniel said in an email.
If Bresciani’s approved increases are higher than 1 percent, the State Board of Higher Education must approve, McDaniel added.
The student activity fee, from which athletics receives its student funds, is proposed to increase by $2.66 per credit.
However, athletics’ three-year plan is not in line with the current process, Swanson said.
“I do know in speaking with current SFAB members, that with the three-year plan athletics proposed, there is not a process set up to where they can vote this year and every year it increases, so in order to have this three-year plan, SFAB would have to meet every year and approve the increase,” Swanson said. “It’s kind of a three-year goal and every year you have to meet to increase it.”
The SFAB can also “do as they see fit” with increase proposals, he added.
“They can vote it down; they can lower the proposal; they can raise the proposal,” Swanson said.
As for athletics’ priority points system, Swanson and others attending the open forums pointed out the waiting lists for football tickets and how priority points may have little effect.
“It’s kind of a bone thrown to the students but it’s really just piecemeal,” Swanson said.