I-Team: Local universities charge students to pay for sports

USF students pay $424 a year on average for sports

TAMPA - The average college student at a public university will spend $8,200 on tuition this year, according to the College Board.  That is up 8% percent from the year before.

The increases come at a time when many students are struggling to pay for their education. USF junior Kyle Brett says he transferred to the school after earning scholarship money.

"It can get pretty hard, I guess. But you've got to do what you got to do," Brett said.

"If my GPA falls, or once my Florida prepay runs out, I'll be in trouble," said USF junior Corinne Doig.

At many schools, at least part of the tuition increases goes towards athletics program fees. At USF, the tuition bill doesn't spell out the $424 the average, full-time student will pay a year to fund the school's sports programs.

Most schools charge students to help pay for sports. But how much they charge varies greatly.

We looked at the athletic fees of all of Florida's public universities. Students pay the smallest amount ($2 million a year) at the University of Florida , where alumni donations and ticket sales are huge. At schools with less established sports programs, it's a different story.

At UCF, students pay the most in the state: $17 million a year. USF is third highest in the state. Students pay $13 million a year in athletic fees. That makes up one-third of the athletic budget.

Some students feel the athletic fee is not worth it.  "We're not really winning games, so right now, no," Brett said.

USF officials declined to comment. Collin Sherwin, USF alum and editor for sports website VoodooFive.com, says even though USF sports hasn't gotten to the level many had hoped, the entire university has benefited from the improvements they've made, and the athletic fee has been a part of that.

"People want to come here. People want to be Bulls now. It's not just that you got denied at another institution. This is now a destination place and a lot of that has to do with athletics," Sherwin said.

Sherwin also points out students get free tickets to games.

Even some students struggling with their tuition bills say they are ok with the $424 fee.

"When you have a big university, of course they want to have a big sports team. But I know that the better the sports team does, the more funding for the college," Doig said.

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