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.
Elections were completed recently to fill positions on the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s legislative body, its Representative Council, with six members receiving re-election from their respective constituencies.
Five of the six re-elected members ran unopposed. Gobles athletic director Chris Miller was re-elected to continue representing Class C and D schools in the southwestern section of the Lower Peninsula, Camden-Frontier superintendent Chris Adams was re-elected to continue representing Class C and D schools in the southeastern section of the Lower Peninsula, and Marquette athletic director Alex Tiseo was re-elected to continue representing Class A and B schools in the Upper Peninsula.
Boyne City High School principal Adam Stefanski also ran unopposed and was re-elected to continue representing junior high/middle schools. Jay Alexander, executive director of athletics for Detroit Public Schools Community District, was re-elected to continue representing Detroit Public Schools. Mt. Morris athletic director Jeff Kline was re-elected from a pool of three candidates to continue in a statewide at-large position.
The Representative Council is the 19-member 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 Council meets three times annually. Five members of the Council convene monthly during the school year to form the MHSAA’s Executive Committee, which reviews appeals of Handbook regulations by member schools.
Additional elections took place to select representatives to the Upper Peninsula Athletic Committee. Negaunee athletic director Paul Jacobson was elected to represent Class A and B schools, and Menominee athletic director Sam Larson was elected to represent Class C schools. Paradise Whitefish Township superintendent/principal/athletic director Vincent Gross was elected to represent Class D schools.
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 1.3 million spectators each year.