There’s some “good” news on a bad topic:  participation fees.

In addition to news stories about several school districts which have had fees but are now dropping them, and donors who are stepping up to reduce fees in other districts, the overview provided by the MHSAA’s annual survey of participation fees shows that predictions that fees would explode in frequency and size this year have not come true.

Surely, it is not good news that half of 514 reporting schools charged fees in 2011-12; but that percentage is unchanged from 2010-11.  Nine years ago, when the first survey was conducted, half that percentage charged fees.

Nor is it good news that the median fee charged was $75 in 2011-12; but that number has increased only $5 since 2009-10.  Nine years ago, however, the median fee was less than one-third of what it was this past school year.

The fact that the MHSAA has conducted this survey for nine years and provides resources to help schools fairly and efficiently administer participation fees does not mean we think they are a good thing, or a good way for schools to respond to their financial woes and realities.

  • We don’t think participation fees are the best business decision in an era of competition between school districts to enroll students and capture the accompanying state aid.
  • We don’t think participation fees are good for coaches who face different expectations from parents when they have paid for their child to be on the team.

  • We don’t think participation fees are good for students, especially winter and spring sport athletes and second, third and fourth children in families who sometimes get the short end of things when family budgets are tight.

Participation fees are an impediment to participation, which is an obstacle to student engagement in schools at a time when schools desperately need such investment.  And such fees remove one of the defining differences between school-sponsored sports and community-run youth sports programs.

(Go to Schools – Administrators – Pay-to-Play Resources for more information.)

Posted in: Participation


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