One State Just Capped How Much Student Fees Can Subsidize College Sports

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The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia has adopted a new policy capping how much a school’s athletics budget can rely on student fees. 

Tuesday’s policy change follows a Huffington Post/Chronicle of Higher Education examination of how student fees pay for athletic programs at public colleges. State universities poured over $10.3 billion in mandatory student fees and other subsidies into sports teams from 2010 through 2014.

The HuffPost/Chronicle report showed that about 84 percent of Georgia State University’s athletics budget was subsidized by student fees and other institutional support. That was the 14th highest percentage in the nation.

While Georgia State’s in-state tuition and fees are about average, the majority of its students are eligible for Pell grants, meaning they come from lower-income backgrounds and find it harder to shoulder added college costs.

Under the new cap, student fees at Georgia’s public colleges and universities cannot account for more than 65 to 85 percent of the individual school’s athletics budget. Georgia State’s cap will be 65 percent, according to a copy of the policy reviewed by HuffPost. The university will need to cut or replace about $700,000 in student fees and tuition currently going toward its athletic programs, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“There is no way to say yet what options we will pursue and what their impact will be on student bills and Athletics revenue,” a spokesman for Georgia State told HuffPost.

Board of Regents members Richard Tucker and Ben Tarbutton III both said they think the cap should go even lower in the years to come.

“We really need to look at that limit and over time work toward lowering it,” Tarbutton said, according to the Journal-Constitution. “This is our first run at it.”

Tucker added, “We need to put the impetus on external fundraising, whatever it may be.”

[Related: The $10 Billion Divide Between Elite Sports Programs And All The Rest]

Georgia State, Armstrong State, Middle Georgia State, East Georgia State, Gordon State and Atlanta Metropolitan State are all over the new cap, according to the Journal-Constitution. The policy will also bar them from increasing their annual athletic operating expenses by more than 5 percent annually, unless approved in advance by the university system’s chancellor. 

On the other hand, the University of Georgia relies on a mere 2.8 percent in student funding for sports, and Georgia Tech relies on just 7.2 percent, so neither will not be affected by the new policy. 

[Related: See How Much Student Fee Money Each Division I School Uses]

“We are aware of the new policy and currently evaluating all of our options. When the time comes, we will be in compliance,” Georgia State Athletic Director Charlie Cobb said in a statement. 

From 2010 through 2014, Georgia State took in $20 million in revenue from its athletic programs, but had $125 million in expenses, resulting in a $105 million shortfall. Among the 201 athletic departments at public universities examined by HuffPost/Chronicle, just 20 generated any profit from their sports programs. 

View the new policy for the University System of Georgia:

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Tyler Kingkade is a national reporter who covers higher education and is based in New York. You can contact him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or find him on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/05/12/georgia-student-fees-cap-sports_n_9938162.html