Pay-to-Play Down Slightly, Survey Shows

July 24, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Slightly less than 50 percent of MHSAA member high schools assessed sports participation fees during the 2017-18 school year, according to an annual survey that enjoyed its highest response rate in 14 years of measuring the prevalence of charging students to help fund interscholastic athletics.

This year’s survey was completed by a record 80 percent of the MHSAA’s 751 member high schools, and 49 percent of respondents charged participation fees – down slightly from 49.7 percent in 2016-17, when the rate dropped below 50 percent for the first time since 2009-10.

The MHSAA conducted its first participation fee survey during the 2003-04 school year, when 24 percent of responding schools reported they charged fees. The percentage of member schools charging fees crossed 50 percent in 2010-11 and reached a high of 56.6 percent in 2013-14.

Class A schools remained the largest group charging fees in 2017-18, with 65 percent of respondents doing so – although that percentage was the lowest for Class A since 66 percent reported using fees in 2011-12. Class B schools fell to 47 percent charging fees (from 52 percent in 2016-17), while Class C (46 percent) and Class D (37) schools remained below 50 percent as well.

Charging a standardized fee for each team on which a student-athlete participates – regardless of the number of teams – remains the most popular method among schools assessing fees, with that rate at 43 percent of schools. Schools charging a one-time standardized fee per student-athlete showed a slight decrease to 28 percent, while assessing fees based on tiers of the number of sports a student-athlete plays (for example, charging a larger fee for the first team and less for additional sports) and assessing fees based on the specific sport being played (some being more expensive than others) both showed slight upticks to 15 and 5 percent, respectively.

The amounts of most fees remained consistent during 2017-18: the median annual maximum fee per student at $150, the median annual maximum family fee at $300 and the median per-team fee at $75 – all for at least the fourth straight year. The median fee assessed by schools that charge student-athletes once per year held steady at $125 for the second straight school year.

Click for the survey for 2017-18, and surveys from previous years can be found here.