To help fund student services and programs such as the Student Health Center and recreational sports, a general fee of $1,921 is added to the tuition students pay each semester. However, many students may be unaware that almost $800 of this fee funds the College of William and Mary’s athletic programs.
A report released in September by the Joint Legislation Audit and Review Commission, the oversight committee of the Virginia General Assembly, found an average of 12 percent of student tuition and fees for the 2012-13 school year for Virginia public universities went to athletic budgets.
According to the report, 53 percent of the College’s athletic program’s revenue comes from student fees. Tribe Athletics Director Terry Driscoll said the commission used a different process to determine the percentage, and the actual percentage lies between 44 and 48 percent.
The remainder of Tribe Athletics’ revenue comes from operating income — which includes ticket sales, shared revenue from the Colonial Athletic Association and sponsorships — and private funding comprised of endowments and private gifts.
Driscoll said that several years ago, the Board of Visitors mandated the department raise its self-generating revenue to 50 percent.
“We did just that,” Brown said. “Our goal is to generate as much support as we can. You will see 65 to 75 percent [coming from student fees] in other schools not in a big conference. We’re actually performing well.”
Despite the fact that mandatory student athletic fees have recently drawn an increased amount of criticism, athletic funding also has increased sharply in the last several years, by an average of 43 percent or $85.9 million in just six years according to the JLARC report.
The increase is partially due to several schools joining larger divisions. Longwood University, for example, became a Division 1 school in 2000 and has since increased student fees from $711 to $2,009. Old Dominion University changed this year from the Football Champion Subdivision to the Football Bowl Series, but it was able to make the change without increasing student fees.
The JLARC report did not make any recommendations on the ways that athletic funding could change. Driscoll said it’s unclear from where alternate sources of funding could come.
“It’s difficult to see how this system might change, even though the current system has some problems,” Driscoll said. “It will come down to what politically legislatures think is fairest for tuition paying students.”
Tribal Fever’s co-president Pam Garcia ’14 said students might be less likely to criticize the student fee and athletic program as a whole if they took a more active role in the College’s sport culture.
“Every student on campus gets to go to games for free. So for me, not paying for tickets for all the different home games for each team I go to makes up for the student fee,” Garcia said. “But you only can get out of it what you put into it.”
Anne Otih ’14, Tribal Fever’s other co-president, also said students might better appreciate the College’s athletic teams if they better understood the amount of work athletes devote to their sport
“People don’t know athletes have to get into William and Mary on their own merit, regardless if they’re good at football or not,” Otih said. “If we understood that and saw these guys work really hard and practice for 18 hours a week, people might have more respect for them.”
Ken Brown, senior associate athletic director for internal operations at Old Dominion University, echoed the opinion of Tribal Fever’s presidents, saying athletic departments provide an integral aspect of College life.
“I believe any athletics department which is partially funded by student fees receives some criticism,” Brown said. “But our department does a great job of supporting students at athletic events and help with tickets when necessary.”