Although participation in high school sports rebounded significantly at Michigan High School Athletic Association schools during the 2021-22 school year, the percentage of member schools charging participation fees remained near its lowest of the last two decades after a major reduction during 2020-21 when fall and winter activities were affected by COVID-19.
Only 40 percent of MHSAA member schools charged participation fees during the 2021-22 school year, following 41 percent using them during 2020-21 – after 48 percent of member schools reported charging them during the 2019-20 school year, when athletics operated normally until the pandemic resulted in a shutdown that March. The dips into the low 40s were the lowest percentages of schools assessing fees since the 2006-07 school year.
The MHSAA participation fee survey has measured the prevalence of charging students to help fund interscholastic athletics annually since the 2003-04 school year. The percentage of member schools charging fees crossed 50 percent in 2010-11 and reached a high of 56.6 percent in 2013-14 before falling back to 50 percent or below during recent years.
Of the 690 schools (92 percent of membership) which responded to the 2021-22 survey, 279 assessed a participation fee, while 411 did not during the past school year. For the purposes of the survey, a participation fee was anything $20 or more regardless of what the school called the charge (registration fee, insurance fee, transportation fee, etc.).
Class A schools remained the largest group charging fees, with 57 percent of respondents doing so. Class B and Class C schools followed, with 39 and 34 percent charging fees, respectively, and 33 percent of Class D schools also charged for participation.
Among schools assessing fees, a standardized fee for each team on which a student-athlete participates – regardless of the number of teams – has shown for a number of years to be the most popular method, with that rate at 46 percent of schools with fees for 2021-22. Next were 32 percent of assessing schools charging a one-time standardized fee per student-athlete, followed by 14 percent 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).
The amounts of participation fees have remained relatively consistent over the last decade. For 2021-22, the median annual maximum fee per student was $150, and the median maximum fee per family was $300. The median fee assessed by schools that charge student-athletes once per year was $120, and the median fee for schools that assess per team on which a student-athlete plays was $75.
As reported earlier this month, participation in MHSAA-sponsored sports rebounded 6.6 percent in 2021-22 from the previous school year.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,400 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.