Athletic fee increased to cover conference switch

Brandon Wise & Stephan Useche/ FIUSM Staff

The athletic fee committee voted to pass the proposed 54-cent increase bringing the total from $15.56 to $16.10 per credit hour, pending the approval of the Board of Trustees.

This is the fourth time in the last six years the athletic fee has been increased. Over the last six years, the fee was increased by five percent in 2007-08, five percent in 2008-09 and three percent in 2011-12. Now, the fee will be raised one and a half percent.

In addition to this fee, there is also a $10 flat fee students pay each semester.

 

University Athletic fee Students enrolled Estimated earnings
Florida Atlantic $16.46 28,000 $5.5 million
Central Florida $13.10 56,000 $8.9 million
Florida International $15.56 45,000 $9.4 million

 

The committee – composed of Felecia Townsend, director of business services; Elizabeth Bejar, vice provost of academic planning and accountability; Jim Carmenate, associate controller; Alex Castro, vice president of the Student Government Council at the Modesto Maidique Campus; Giovanni Castro, senator-at-large at MMC; and Abel Ramos, SGC-BBC senator-at-large – voted four to three in favor of the increase.

All students on the committee voted against the increase.

William Beesting, associate dean for Undergraduate Education, cast the tie-breaking vote, allowing for the 1.5 percent increase.

Alex Castro, Giovanni Castro and Ramos said they “wanted to give their vote for the students.”

Athletics requested to raise the athletic fee for the fall 2012 semester to cover the transition from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA. The initiation fee to join the conference is $2 million, with $300,000 in expected yearly fees, compared to $35,000 in the SBC.

Based on an average 12-credit course load and with roughly 45,000 students enrolled at the University, Athletics earned an estimated $9.4 million in spring 2012. With the proposed increase, athletics would then earn $9.7 million per semester, an additional $311,040 more each semester.

Vice President Castro said that he received 50 email responses regarding the potential athletic fee increase, but according to Carmenate, the emails were not representative of the entire student body.

Senator-at-Large Castro believes that SGA did their part in trying to inform students on the matter.

“The attempt to inform them was there, an email was sent to everybody, I got like three emails. They say ‘silent’ because they think U-wide, they think 48,000 and when they see 20 people in a room, 51 emails back, they think ‘silent,’” Giovanni Castro said. “Alex [Castro] and I don’t really think of that as silent, like I said, in an election year we had 9,000 people vote and to me that wasn’t silent. Those 9,000 people are going to represent 48,000. If I thought it was silent, I probably wouldn’t be so adamant about voting no, but I was.”

In the State University System, FIU ranks first among universities in money allotted to the athletic department from student fees behind the University of Central Florida with $8.9 million per semester and Florida Atlantic University with $5.5 million per semester. UCF’s current fee per credit hour is $13.10 and FAU pays $16.45 per credit hour. Comparatively, UCF enrolls 56,337 students and FAU enrolls 27,944, while FIU enrolls roughly 45,000 students.

While FIU pays $7.95 per credit hour in athletic fees, there is also an additional $7.35 per credit hour each student pays for football related expenses, on top of a $10 flat fee per semester.

“C-USA is one of the best conferences in the country,” said Pete Garcia, executive director of sports and entertainment, at the first public hearing which took place on Tuesday, May 8, in the Wolfe University Center at the Biscayne Campus.

FIU was invited to join Conference USA last Thursday, and then it was announced to the student body on Friday that the invitation had been accepted.

According to the committee, C-USA promises to give FIU national exposure, and it gets to compete with higher level schools such as Marshall, Rice, SMU, Houston, Memphis, among others. The conference is also working on television deals with multiple companies.

“I know that with the economic situation, even if it’s a cent, it’s difficult for the students,” said Garcia.

Garcia added that the exposure FIU will get from C-USA will attract attention not only to athletics but to the academics as well.

“This is the one thing that, with all due respect to all other fees, this actually brings value to the degree, it brings monetary value when they’re applying to jobs…” said Garcia.

While the SBC shares similarities with C-USA, the latter has two more major network deals than the SBC. Also, the SBC’s single network deal is in the southeast region.

“They call it C-USA for a reason, it’s national exposure, and better TV deals,” said Garcia.

Although the committee said joining C-USA is crucial to making FIU and its students known nationally and internationally, the 11 students in attendance at the BBC hearing were split on the issue.

“It’s a Catch-22,” said Sholom Neistein, biology and psychology major and former president of SGC-BBC. “I’m for it and I’m against it. I’m a student and I’m going to feel it too.”

I’ve been here for five years, and I’ve seen exponential growth at FIU; people didn’t know FIU existed when I first came here but it’s gotten massive exposure and it does help your degree, I’ve seen it.”

On the other hand, students such as Desir Nonhomme, Arts and Sciences senator in the SGC-BBC, does not agree with the fee increase.

“I think it’s ridiculous at this point; they just raised tuition,” said Nonhomme. “It’s not fair to the students, and we can’t let them keep raising fees and tuition.”

Additional reporting by Eduardo Almaguer.

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