IBHE examines funding

By Jerry Lawrence

The Illinois Board of Higher Education is concerned that reliance of intercollegiate athletics on student fees serves as an indirect form of state funding.

The athletic fee is a mandatory student fee which makes it eligible for reimbursement under state financial aid programs, according to an IBHE report released last week which examined the funding of intercollegiate athletics.

Intercollegiate athletic funding has been a hot topic at NIU since Feb. 4 when an increase in student fees was proposed to help NIU athletic programs withstand the loss of state tax dollars from their budget.

The student fee increase proposal, which was withdrawn from consideration by the President’s Fee Study Committee last Thursday, claimed to aid in the reallocation of state funds out of the athletics budget. However, according to the IBHE report, an increase in student fees would form an additional drain on state tax dollars through financial aid programs.

The IBHE report states mandatory student fees for athletics are eligible for reimbursement under the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s (ISAC) Monetary Award Program (MAP).

“Thus, student financial aid awards indirectly provide additional state support for intercollegiate athletics,” the report says.

The report goes on to put partial blame on the mandatory student athletic fees for the inadequacy of financial aid funds available for needy students.

It states, “The increases in athletic fees as well as all other non-tuition student fees and the contribution of fee increases to shortfalls in available student financial aid funds continue to be policy issues addressed by the Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.”

The report says 14.1 percent of the NIU athletics budget for the 1991-1992 academic year was received from student fees reimbursed under MAP.

This translates to a $301,600 cost to the state financial aid system last year to reimburse needy students for fees they paid to intercollegiate athletics. Figures for this academic year were not contained in the report.

In language typical of the IBHE Priorities, Qualities and Productivities (PQP) initiative, the report recommends universities closely evaluate their spending on intercollegiate athletics.

“Illinois public universities should consider various productivity improvements to assure they are offering high quality, cost-effective intercollegiate athletics programs,” the report says.

The IBHE recommended universities use similar analyses in evaluating academic programs last year. NIU officials are preparing to offer programs for elimination after evaluation by the Academic Planning Council. The IBHE already has recommended the elimination of 15 NIU academic programs under PQP, including NIU’s law school.