LAWRENCE — The Kansas athletic department is poised to lose close to $340,000 in net revenue after a student-led push to eliminate a $25 per semester campus fee designated for women’s and non-revenue sports.
The KU student senate previously voted to cut the fee altogether, but chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who had the power to veto the senate vote, issued an alternate plan on Thursday.
In a letter to the KU student body president and vide president, Gray-Little said she would lower the Women’s and Non-revenue sports fee from $25 to $7 per semester, while increasing a Student Recreation and Fitness Center fee by $12.
In explaining the decision, Gray-Little referenced a 2004 agreement between the KU student senate and KU athletics, which set the current women’s and non-revenue sports fee. Under the old arrangement, KU athletics had agreed to pay the bonds for an expansion to the KU Student Recreation Center.
Those bond payments — some $470,000 annually — will now be financed by the increase to the recreation fee.
For the KU athletic department, the decision means a nearly 50 percent cut in what it was receiving from student fees. But the department was facing a more than $700,000 loss in revenue, if the fee would have been eliminated altogether.
“This change eliminates almost half of the net fee that went to Kansas Athletics,” Gray-Little wrote in a letter to the student leaders, “while ensuring students will continue to provide a measure of support to athletics programs in recognition of the role intercollegiate sports play in the lives of students.”
The push to eliminate the women’s and non-revenue sports fee, which KU used to fund travel for its women’s programs, raised the question of whether the general student population at universities should be subsidizing portions of the school’s athletic department budget.
A practice that began as a small $1.50 fee to help KU comply with Title IX regulations was now funneling more than a million dollars from the KU student body to athletics — some of which was used to pay bonds on the recreation center. According to documents filed to the NCAA, KU athletics had $93 million in revenues in 2013.
But KU athletics officials contended that the $50 yearly fee allowed it to keep their student ticket package ($150) among the cheapest in the Big 12. By comparison: Students at K-State pay close to $26 in annual fees to its athletic department, while its student ticket packages ranged from $235 to $295.
“Certainly, we would have rather had the whole fee kept intact,” said KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony. “But we think the chancellor did a good job and we respect her decision.”
Marchiony also said the athletic department may explore ways to make up for the loss in revenue, including higher ticket prices for students.
“The student government said on more than one occasion that they would rather have the students that buy the tickets bear the load,” Marchiony said. “We haven’t made any decision yet, but certainly everything is on the table.”