After weeks of debate before a compromised measure finally found its way through the Tarleton State University Student Government Association, the proposed increase in the intercollegiate athletics fee paid by all Tarleton students whisked right through a general election of the student body Wednesday and Thursday.
Students agreed to a $2 increase in the athletics fee in the 2009-10 academic year followed by another $2 hike in 2010-11, bringing the fee, which is currently $6 per semester credit hour, to $10 per hour.
The vote passed by more than a 2-1 margin with 750 students voting for and 365 against, meaning only 1,115 votes were cast out of a pool of more than 6,000 full time students and over 1,000 more who attend part time and could also have voted.
Tarleton Vice President Dr. Wanda Mercer and Athletics Director Lonn Reisman both say the fee isn't to provide student-athletes and coaching staffs with more than they currently have. Rather, they say the increase will help to maintain the school's current amount of scholarships for student-athletes and help meet the rising costs of medical care, transportation needs and more.
The fee increase will mean more than $300,000 in additional income for the athletics department next year, and more than $600,000 in years following. The total annual revenue from the athletics fee beginning in 2010-11 is expected to top $1.6 million. It is currently in the $1 million range.
The athletics department is hoping to be able to use some of the additional funds to enhance student seating both at Memorial Stadium and Wisdom Gym, however, there is no guarantee with the current state of the economy that such perks will be possible.
The change in the fee pales in comparison to the increases taking place at other Lone Star Conference South Division schools. Midwestern State is going from no fee to $10 per semester credit hour, while West Texas A&M is going from $10 to $20. Texas A&M-Kingsville is going from $15 per hour to $18.
The fee increase must still be approved by the board of regents, who will consider the referendum during their March meeting.
Athletics also currently receives 28-percent of the income from the student services fee charged by Tarleton. During a recent meeting of the student house, Dr. Mercer informed student representatives that it is possible that could be raised to as much as 35-percent. Any changes to the student services fee, however, are still a long way from being ironed out, according to Mercer.