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May 29, 2009 - Students vote against fees to support college athletics

A May 29, 2009 article in the New York Times reported on the decisions at several colleges by students who voted against fee increases to help pay for their schools' college sports programs.  The votes by student bodies at the University of New Orleans, and three state universities in California -- Sacramento, Long Beach, and Fullerton -- are contrary to recent votes at the University of North Texas and Utah State University in favor of levying fees on students to help finance their sports teams. And, while students at the California State University at Fresno voted against fees to support athletics, the University president overrode the vote and imposed a fee of $32 per semester per student.

As stated in the article, universities where students recently voted down fee increases are primarily commuter colleges, where students may be less invested in sports, and they either do not compete in major football conferences or do not have football, which provides significant revenue and which also helps to offset the cost of other sports.  “Midmajors like us, Division I without football, we’re really struggling; student fees make a huge difference,” said Vic Cegles, the athletic director at Long Beach State, where students voted down a proposed annual $190 increase in March. “We need facilities. We have a top-25 baseball team, but our kids have no locker room. I don’t know how much longer we can compete under those conditions.”

Yet, students are already feeling the pinch with increasing fees for health care and transportation, in addition to tuition increases that have far outpaced inflation for each year in recent memory. “We’re definitely seeing in recent times students refusing to pay a lot of these fees,” said Bill Shiebler, national field director for the United States Student Association. “There is a spectrum of reasons, ranging from ‘I think it costs too much to go to school here’ to ‘I don’t want to support any new fees’ to ‘I just don’t want to have my dollars go to athletics because I don’t use it.' "