Athletics fees going up after SGA bailout

Image by Jorge Coll/PantherNOW

By: Joshua Ceballos/Staff Writer


Starting fall 2019, students will pay a higher Athletics fee to help pay for the Athletics Department’s over $3 million deficit, which comes after years of severe revenue losses.

This includes online students, who will pay Athletics fees for the first time.

After weeks of deliberation at meetings and public hearings, the Athletics Fee Committee, made up of Student Government officials from both campuses and University administrators, came to a unanimous vote on Thursday, May 2 in favor of changing the fees while leaving students with a “net zero” total change. The Activities and Service fee will go down by 42 cents and the Athletics fee will go up by the same amount.

The salaries for Career and Talent Development employees will no longer be paid by the A&S fee, instead they will be State funded. This frees up between $500,000 and $600,000 in the A&S budgets, which will now move to Athletics.

Currently, students pay $14.85 in Activities and Service fee and $16.10 in Athletics fee per credit hour. For the fiscal year 2019-2020, students will pay $14.43 in A&S and $16.52 in Athletics. The 42 cent change constitutes the over $500,000 that previously went to Career and Talent Development.

The committee was split on the issue at their previous meeting. However, Student Government Council at the Biscayne Bay Campus President Pamela Ho Fung and Vice President Mahalia Balfour said they changed their minds once they got a better picture of the change.

After last week’s meeting, University Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Jessell shared documents to the committee and Student Media that provided clarification on the exact needs and of the Athletics Department and how it plans to make up for the rest of their approximately $3.5 million deficit.

“With the documents Dr. Jessell sent, I saw a clearer picture of the fee transition and that’s why I voted yes this time,” said Ho Fung. “There were a lot of missing pieces, so I needed to see the details.”

At initial meetings, it was not disclosed that fully online students will be paying the Athletics fee for the first time starting this summer. At the request of the committee, Jessell clarified that Athletics will receive about $1,435,000 annually from online students and about $550,000 from the fee change.

This still leaves the Department $1,515,000 in deficit that they need to make up for on their own, which Jessell said they will do via fundraising and increasing sponsorships.

Peter Hernandez, the outgoing vice president for the Student Government Council at the Modesto Maidique Campus, said that his “yes” vote was contingent on an assurance from Jessell and Athletics that they will report to SGA twice a year with their budgets, and that the University knows that SGA should not be the go-to source for money.

“SGA is not the be-all and end-all. This is a great solution for this year, but in future years we have to be more careful about what entity we’re tapping into for money because it’s always us,” said Hernandez.

The committee’s decision will go through several administrators including Jessell and University President Mark B. Rosenberg before being sent to the Board of Trustees for final approval.

A 2017 audit of the Athletics department revealed years of financial mismanagement adding to the significant loss of revenue from decreasing television viewership for Conference USA, which FIU joined in 2013.

When asked about ways the Department has tried to fix their mishandling of money, Sandra Duran, director of finance & accounting for Athletics declined to comment except through media relations. Tyson Rodgers, Athletics spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

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