Although the use of participation fees to help fund interscholastic athletics in Michigan high schools has doubled during the last nine years, the percentage of schools assessing them has held steady over the last two, according to surveys taken by the Michigan High School Athletic Association of its member institutions.
The most recently completed survey indicates that of 514 member schools participating, 260 schools – 50.5 percent – charged participation fees during the 2011-12 school year. In the 2010-11 survey, fees were being used at 50.4 percent of schools participating.
There were 763 senior high schools in the MHSAA membership this school year – the survey generated a response rate of 68 percent. This was the ninth survey of schools since the 2003-04, when members reported that fees were being used in 24 percent of schools.
The most recent survey also showed that fees incurred by students who paid once for an entire year of participation increased slightly from 2010-11 to 2011-12 – although the maximum fee per family decreased slightly.
The most popular method of assessing participation fees continues to be a payment for each sport an athlete goes out for, used by 41.5 percent of schools in 2011-12. That median fee among schools in the survey has increased only $5, to $75, since 2009-10.
A standardized annual fee per student was used by 24.5 percent of schools in the past year. Since Fall 2003, that fee has increased from $75 to $120 – a 60 percent increase – with the fee increasing $20 per athlete from 2010-11 to 2011-12.
Beginning with the 2004-05 survey, schools were asked in the survey if they had a cap on what individual student-athletes and families could be charged. Caps on student fees have been used by the majority of schools, but that number has dropped from 71.3 percent in 2004-05 to 55 percent in 2011-12. However, the number of schools instituting a cap on what a family pays has increased from 41 percent having a limit in 2004-05 to 49 percent in 2011-12.
Other data from the 2011-12 survey shows 64.5 percent of schools with participation fees have some kind of fee reduction or waiver program in place based on existing programs for subsidized lunch and milk (down from 68 percent in 2010-11); that 14 percent of schools using fees report a drop in participation; and that slightly more than one percent of schools report losing students to other school districts because they are charging fees. Five percent of schools not assessing fees in 2011-12 report transfers to their districts because of the absence of fees. Also, seven percent of schools not assessing fees had done so previously.
The survey for 2011-12 and surveys from previous years can be found on the MHSAA Website by clicking on Schools – Administrators – Pay-To-Play Resources.
The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association began examining several topics during its Fall Meeting, Dec. 1 in East Lansing – including start and end dates of the winter calendar, possible new transfer rule exceptions and emerging sports – that will shape its work during the winter and spring meetings of this 2023-24 school year.
Generally, the Council takes only a few actions during its Fall Meeting, with topics often introduced for additional consideration and action during its meetings in March and May. The Council did take three actions this time as part of larger conversations expected to continue over the next six months.
The Council joined staff discussion on the start and end dates of winter seasons and the possibility of moving up both, which was among topics surveyed as part of the Update Meeting poll completed by administrators during the MHSAA’s annual presentations across the state this fall. Staff will prepare a recommendation for Council to review at a future meeting regarding the 2025-26 school year and beyond.
MHSAA staff also provided a variety of transfer rule issues encountered over the last year, and Council discussed the possibility of adding transfer rule exceptions related to military transfer families, fulltime school employee transfers and students returning from a sports academy or prep school and seeking immediate eligibility. The Council did adopt a change for multi-high school districts (with at least three high schools) that include both boundary and non-boundary schools that more clearly defined where students at those schools have immediate eligibility.
The Council also discussed possible new and emerging sports, including proposals for MHSAA sponsorship received by the water polo and field hockey governing bodies and an anticipated proposal to add boys volleyball to the MHSAA Tournament lineup.
Several more conversations regarded MHSAA postseasons:
- The Council reviewed the work of the Football Task Force and considered a staff recommendation to have the Football Committee in January discuss possibly capping enrollment of Division 8 11-player schools at 250 students to incentivize schools within that group to play 11-player instead of switching to 8-player.
- MHSAA staff have identified four areas requiring financial increases – MHSAA Tournament officials fees, host schools compensations, manager honorariums and team reimbursements for Finals participants – and the Council discussed the importance of including these when the MHSAA Audit & Finance Committee meets in February to begin the 2024-25 budgetary process.
- The Council also discussed recommendations from the MHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee addressing possible requirements of emergency action plans and AEDs at MHSAA Tournament sites.
The Fall Meeting saw the appointment of Wyoming Godfrey-Lee Schools superintendent Arnetta Thompson and Freeland Middle School principal Jennifer Thunberg to two-year terms to the 19-person Council, the first terms for both. The Council also reelected Scott Grimes, superintendent for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, as its president; Brighton High School athletic director John Thompson as its vice president, and Vic Michaels, director of physical education and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as secretary-treasurer.
The Representative Council is the legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 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.