Since the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Athletics Department came out with a proposal last year to increase the amount students must pay to fund athletics, but if approved, that won't translate into a sweeter deal for students.
When the athletic fee was apposed, campus group Associated Students of the University of Hawai‘i (ASUH) surveyed students to gauge their reaction. Over a four-week period last November, ASUH found that out of 905 responses from undergraduate and graduate students at UH Mānoa, 704 expressed opposition to an increase in student fees from $50 to $100 by 2020.
In light of student resistance to the imposition of higher athletics fees, ASUH, as well as the Graduate Student Organization (GSO), have written resolutions expressing disapproval of an athletic fee increase. With student organizations taking a stance against the proposed increase in fees, the UH Athletics Department is faced with the not-so-easy task of having to justify it.
The student athletic fee allows students to gain free access to campus sports events, but if the tuition increase came with additional benefits for students beyond what currently exist, would campus groups like ASUH change their stance?
ASUH president Roxie-Anne Kamoshida said the majority of students at UH Mānoa may not even have time to take advantage of the “benefits” that are already being offered to them.
“A lot of college students are all really busy and they don’t stay on campus or go to campus just to see [athletics] games. Maybe a select few, but I see that most students, especially the ones who commute, do not go the athletics events,” said Kamoshida. “Even students who do house here at UH, the majority of them may not go.”
Kamoshida thinks that any new additions to the student athletic fee benefits package would not do a lot to persuade students that a hike in fees is justified. She said students aren’t that engaged with the athletics program because of their heavy schedules.
Nevertheless, she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of new benefits having a positive effect on students’ perception of a fee increase.
“It just depends upon what those benefits are,” she said.
Moving forward, Kamoshida hopes that the Athletics Department will take into account the needs and concerns of the student body as it consults with organizations on campus to finalize a long-term financial plan for the future.
As Athletics Director David Matlin communicated to the UH Board of Regents (BOR) in a presentation delivered at a hearing held last fall, the increase in student athletics fees is one part of a larger long-term plan to to generate $14.2 million in new annual revenue over the next four fiscal years, in order to reduce the department’s yawning budget deficit.
Based on a comprehensive "deep dive" study, the athletics department has created a financial model that involves amassing financial support from the Hawai‘i State Legislature, UH, new UH Athletics’ Initiatives and increased student athletics fees, as a means of addressing the department’s dire financial situation.
According to Joel Matsunaga, Special Assistant to David Matlin, the increase in student athletics fees is a key part of the “multi-pronged approach” and is not that unreasonable when compared with the fees instituted by other schools throughout the country.
“In comparison, we have the lowest student fee in all our peer conferences. The average [student athletic fee revenue] for the Mountain West [conference] is $4 million. The average for the Big West [conference] is $6.2 million. The University of Hawai‘i gets about 1.6 million dollars in student fees, a portion of which goes right back to the students through the student athletics fee committee to be used for student purposes and benefits,” Matsunaga said.
Matsunaga went on to say that even with the proposed fee increase of $12.50 per year for the next 4 years, Athletic Fee revenues to UH Athletics would still remain among the lowest in the country.
Furthermore, the Athletics Department’s report to the BOR outlined the different ways in which athletic fee revenue benefit the student body as a whole and create an “enhanced UH student experience.” Under the current student athletics fee benefits package, some of the benefits that students receive are free admission to UH athletic events and access to Shared Usage of Athletic Facilities.
According to the report, a student who takes full advantage of the benefits under the package would receive approximately $1,644 in value in return for the annual Athletic Fee of $100.
Matsunaga is also keen on making sure that the opinions of the student body play a key role in the Athletics Department’s actions moving forward. “We’ve told everyone what the [financial] plan would be … and we’re starting to get a dialogue going with students groups,” Matsunaga said. “The details of how that plan will be implemented still needs to be determined, and will certainly to a large extent based on the [student] feedback we receive in the future.”