Which Programs Rely on Student Activity Fees?

Last Updated on April 22, 2011

Student Section at The Swamp

I’ve shown you how much schools in the SEC and Big Ten rely on alumni contributions, but what about student activity fees?

I came across this issue while researching for my ACC financials piece awhile back. I discovered that UVA’s athletic department received over $12.1 million in student activity fees, while Georgia Tech only supplemented their budget with $4.6 million. Which, of course, made me wonder: how much are programs relying on student activity fees?

This is a multi-part series, with this first installment focusing on the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12. Check back at 3 p.m. ET this afternoon for the Pac-10, ACC and Big East. Next week, I’ll cover the non-AQ conferences.

Data covers the 2009-2010 school year and is unavailable for private schools and a couple of others who did not report and would not comment. Unavailable data is marked with “N/A” and “$0” indicates the athletic department receives no portion of student activity fees. 

To give you context while you look at each conference, here are the five athletic programs who receive the most in student activity fees:

1$13,026,289 – University of South Florida
2$12,160,103 – University of Virginia
3$8,626,506 – University of Connecticut
4$8,441,092 – Rutgers University
5$6,919,449 – Florida State University

With that in mid, let’s take a look at the SEC first:

SECDollar AmountPercent of Revenue
Auburn University$5,261,604.005.68%
Mississippi State University$4,000,000.0010.49%
University of Georgia$3,202,545.003.57%
University of Florida$2,507,391.002.14%
University of South Carolina$2,146,293.002.69%
University of Mississippi$1,820,200.003.98%
University of Tennessee$1,000,000.000.86%
University of Kentucky$738,194.000.93%
University of Alabama$0.000.00%
Louisiana State University$0.000.00%
University of Arkansas$0.000.00%
Vanderbilt UniversityN/AN/A

Although Auburn receives the most, it’s Mississippi State that interests me. Student activity fees account for over 10% of total revenue.

When I posted the piece on SEC alumni contributions earlier this week, I asked Mississippi State fans how they felt about the athletic department not pulling from the Bulldog Club for the 2009-2010 school year. No one said they had an issue. I wonder if fans feel differently now, however. Especially those still in school. Do you think students should be funding such a large portion of the athletic department’s revenue or should they be dipping into the alumni contributions? Keep in mind that MSU just announced plans for a huge fundraising drive for upgrades to athletic facilities, so they’ll be asking the alumni for a lot in the coming months.

Of the SEC schools who make their information available, 73% are using student activity fees as a source of revenue in their athletic department. Interesting after seeing SEC schools bring in the most revenue on average from football when compared to other conferences.

The Big Ten, who comes in right behind the SEC in average football revenue, has the lowest percentage of reporting schools using student activity fees as a source of revenue, with just 30% of schools doing so:

Big 10Dollar AmountPercent of Revenue
University of Illinois$2,961,577.003.94%
University of Iowa$525,707.000.59%
Indiana University$23.000%
University of Michigan$0.000.00%
University of Minnesota$0.000.00%
Purdue University$0.000.00%
University of Wisconsin$0.000.00%
Ohio State University$0.000.00%
Michigan State University$0.000.00%
Penn State University$0.000.00%
Northwestern UniversityN/AN/A

Once again the SEC posts a larger number than the Big Ten with an average of $2,584,528 million in student activity fees coming into the athletic department, compared to just $348,731 in the Big Ten. However, I don’t think this is a comparison SEC students, who are footing the bill, will be happy to have won.

As was the case with SEC football revenue leaders Alabama and LSU, those topping the Big Ten football revenue chart aren’t relying on student activity fees either, including the top three: Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan.

The Big 12 shows a similar relationship between the top football revenue producers and a lack of reliance on student activity fees. The Big 12 finishes between the SEC and Big Ten with 55% of reporting schools relying on student activity fees as part of their athletics budget:

Big 12Dollar AmountPercent of Revenue
Texas Tech University$2,758,639.004.45%
University of Kansas$1,948,967.002.76%
Oklahoma State University$1,809,123.001.70%
University of Colorado$1,579,971.003.19%
Iowa State University$1,182,848.002.52%
Kansas State University$560,695.001.05%
University of Missouri$0.000.00%
University of Nebraska$0.000.00%
University of Oklahoma$0.000.00%
University of Texas$0.000.00%
Texas A&M University$0.000.00%
Baylor UniversityN/AN/A

The average receipt in the Big 12 comes between the SEC and Big Ten figures as well at $894,568. Again, we have schools who top the football revenue chart, Texas and Oklahoma, not relying on student activity fees to supplement the athletic department budget.

Which leads me to my first question: can a football program’s revenue negate the need for receiving a portion of student activity fees from the university? What about the Mississippi State situation (which could happen at any school) – should student activity fees be relied on more or less heavily than alumni contributions?

You can follow me on Twitter @SportsBizMiss.

Thanks to my research assistant, Eric Heckman (@eaheckman10), who helped compile the data for this piece!

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  • Richard
    April 22, 2011

    Need to also explore what students get for those dollars. At Mississippi State they get free basketball and deeply discounted football tickets. Maybe other schools do the same, but I think it needs to be included for context.

  • Kristi Dosh
    April 22, 2011

    Thank you, Richard. Several people have been curious about that aspect. I’ll have another series coming up next week about student ticket prices. Too much good info to fit all in one post! 🙂

  • Ward
    April 25, 2011

    Saved, I enjoy your blog! 🙂