Portland State University’s decision to eliminate its tuition plateau is causing student fees to partly cover athletic scholarships for the first time. Consequently, student fees for athletics will increase by $180,000.
PSU’s Student Fee Committee allocates more than 29 percent of student fees to athletics. The student body will have pay $7.182 million in fees in this fiscal year. Of that amount, $2.15 million went to the school’s athletic department. In the coming fiscal year, athletics will receive about $2.33 million
At other Big Sky Conference schools student fees cover less than at PSU, although, like PSU, the other schools draw money from donations, the NCAA and other sources.
For example, Idaho State Athletic Director Jim Senter said that 6 percent of ISU’s student fees go toward athletics. And at the University of Montana, the athletic department receives no money from students.
PSU’s tuition plateau allowed undergraduate students to take up to 18 credits for the price of 12. Cathy Dyck, PSU’s associate vice president of finance and administration, said this system was unfair to many students because the window allowed full-time students to pay as little as $60 per credit while part time students were forced to pay $90 per credit.
Without the tuition plateau, all students will be required to pay $90 for each credit. With hopes to dodge an immediate financial shock to PSU students, the administration has only lowered the plateau for winter and spring terms in 2004. This term and next, students can take 15 credits for the price of 12, but that benefit will end by fall 2004.
Christy Harper, a Student Fee Committee member who originally believed athletics had been receiving too much money from student fees, said “I actually voted to give the athletic department more money for next year because, I see now, that athletics provide more diversity on campus. We give them so much money, but now I think they really need it.”
With over 320 student athletes at PSU, many students are prospering from athletic scholarships. In previous years, the athletic department has required approximately $2,112,000 from sources other than student fees to cover athletic scholarships.
Because of the elimination of free credits to full time students, and the recent raise in tuition, athletic scholarships will increase on average by about $1,250 a year, per athlete, leaving the department approximately $400,000 short. Average athletic scholarships will increase from $6,600 to $7,850.
While the Student Fee Committee agreed to provide the athletic department with $180,000 more than it had previously allocated, Tom Burman, Portland State athletic director, said the department has been left with a deficit of over $200,000 for next year. The amount is directly related to the end of the tuition plateau.
Although the administration at PSU believes this change is a fair way to make up for its lack of state funding, students negatively impacted by the change in tuition may disagree.
When asked how the closure of the credit window has affected her, Annie Peccia, a PSU softball player on athletic scholarship said, “If PSU could not cover my scholarship, I would have to pay for it out of my own pocket or else find some other scholarship.”
Along with student fees and alumni donations, the PSU athletic program is funded, in large part, by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). To ensure that student athletes achieve the same education as other students attending a four-year university, the NCAA has many requirements linked to the academic standings of the athletes at the colleges it funds.
Student athletes must maintain a 2.0 cumulative grand point average and be enrolled for at least 12 credits per semester (36 per year).
In previous years, athletic scholarships have covered only the flat cost of a full time academic schedule (12-18 credits). For a PSU student to graduate within four years he or she must complete at least 180 credit hours (15 credits per term). If a student athlete successfully completes only 12 credits per term he or she will be in school for at least five years.
Tim Breagman, assistant athletic director of compliance at PSU, explained that the athletic department has a responsibility to give student athletes the scholarships they have been promised.
As an athletic administration and an educational institution, PSU is required to ensure athletes of the quality and stability of a four-year education. If Portland State cannot ensure its athletes with this security, student athletes will have reason to look for scholarships at other universities, Bruegman said.