School activity fees see upward trends

/ 9 September 2013 / eunice

Megan Kadlec, Lakeshore Weekly News, September 9, 2013 – High school athletic and activity programs have been thought to foster community engagement and school spirit while also teaching athletes discipline, persistence and teamwork outside of the classroom – but at what cost?

Nearly a decade ago, students could participate in a variety of sports for less than $100, and various groups and clubs at little or no cost. But now, parents of students at local high schools could be forking over as much as $500 per sport, per child.

The average high school football player in the area will pay $229 to play, regardless of whether he makes varsity or the freshman “c-squad.”

These activity fees, according to Minnetonka Public Schools, include the “cost of uniforms and equipment, cost of repairs to uniforms and equipment, and a portion of the operational costs.”

Operational costs include, but are not limited to, paying coaches’ salaries, the maintenance and repair of fields and courts, transportation costs, awards, rulebooks and the rental of practice space required for sports such as swimming, golf and hockey.

In addition to activity fees, sports qualifying physicals are required for all students participating in Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned sports. These physicals are valid three years from the exam date, and can cost up to $150, depending on the clinic and individual insurance coverage.

Sports physicals were also available at no cost from Fairview Sports and Orthopedic Care for various two-to-three-hour periods in July and August – but with 15 participating metro locations, the 50 donated hours didn’t seem to stretch as far as some would have liked.

In general, fees for non-athletic school clubs and groups are minimal, ranging from $0 to $40, though debate and theatre cost upwards of $60, due mainly to travel and production expenses.

Lakeville North High School sports are astronomically more expensive than other school districts in the area, despite being similar in size to Wayzaya High School. Football costs $275, whereas volleyball, gymnastics and basketball all cost $440, with hockey totaling at $600 for both boys and girls.

At nearly every local high school, students who cannot manage to pay the required activity fee can apply for scholarships and fee waivers. However, these students must be qualified for free or reduced school lunch costs.

In the last five years, the average cost to play sports has been increased anywhere from $0-40 per year, depending on budget cuts, fundraising efforts, booster clubs and levies that did or did not pass in a given school district.

While some central Minnesota school districts have been pushing the Minnesota State High School league to reduce games placed as well as classes and divisions, other schools have eliminated sports all together.

The other option to keeping high school sports alive in the face of decreasing district funding is to come up with more money, whether that is through fundraising efforts, the foundation of community booster clubs or increasing participation fees.

Several St. Paul public schools have been putting their athletes to work, raising money by working the concessions stands at Minnesota Twins games and University of Minnesota football games. And there are the traditional car washes, bake sales and pancake breakfast fundraisers.

The Blake School, a private institution, does not require their students to pay any athletic or activity fees in addition to their tuition. According to Sarah Klawiter, the athletics office manager, all operating costs for athletics are rolled into a student’s tuition.

However, rolling activity fees into tuition isn’t commonplace at all private institutions; playing sports at the Providence Academy, located in Plymouth, will cost an additional $130 to $400.