MSU-Mankato prez won't approve student-endorsed athletic fee increase

Won't be saved?

For those of you keeping up with the student-fee-hike-for-athletics situation at Minnesota State University -Mankato, there’s an interesting twist.

Last week, Minnesota State University – Mankato students voted in a referendum to raise their student fees by 75 cents a credit (up to $11.25 a semester) to save four sports from budget-related elimination: men’s swimming, women’s bowling and men’s and women’s tennis.

About one in five students showed up to vote, according to information supplied by a university spokesman. (The local newspaper pegged it at 23 percent.)

But now comes this from the university:

Minnesota State Mankato President Richard Davenport Decides Not to Approve Student Fee Increase to Support Four Athletic Programs

President Richard Davenport has decided not to approve a suggested student fee increase that would support four intercollegiate athletic programs scheduled to be eliminated at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

However, he said the university will continue to support one of the four programs – women’s tennis – in order to honor the university’s commitment to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Women’s tennis is a championship NSIC sport; the other three – men’s tennis, women’s bowling and men’s swimming – are not.

“We need to continue to offer the full complement of NSIC championship sports,” Davenport said today in announcing his decision.

“I cannot support an athletic program student fee increase,” he said. “Students are being asked to bear a significant burden of higher education appropriations cuts through increased tuition, and an athletic fee increase would make that burden too great.”

Last year administrators identified four sports programs as candidates for elimination, to help the university reduce its fiscal year 2012 expenditures by $8 million.

Officials identified the sports after examining each of the university’s 21 intercollegiate programs based on gender equity impact, potential economic impact, alignment with competitors’ programs and other factors.

On April 12 Minnesota State Mankato students, in an advisory referendum, voted 1,796 to 1,287 in favor of raising student fees by 75 cents per credit – approximately $20 per student per year – to keep the four sports programs viable for three years.

“In not approving a fee increase, I have considered several factors,” Davenport said. “Only 12 percent of the student body voted in favor of the advisory referendum. Bowling, men’s tennis and men’s swimming are not Northern Sun championship sports. And a student fee increase to support these programs would be temporary, and does not address the overall budget issue.”

“I respect the grassroots effort to save these programs,” Davenport added. “The athletes in these programs are wonderful students and great competitors. But budget reductions are the new reality, and that means fewer programs in athletics as well as academics.”

The reduction in sport programs is part of an overall budget-cutting effort intended to reduce athletic expenditures by $560,000 over the last three years. The sport program reductions will amount to about one-third of that total.