Public universities in North Carolina can’t fund their athletic budgets from only ticket and merchandise sales; they must use subsidies to foot the rest of the bill.
Sometimes the extra funds may come from the government, but more often than not, they are mandatory student fees, paid regardless of whether students watch or play a sport. Schools that do not achieve national athletic success rely on students to subsidize most of their costs: For example, in 2014, UNC-Greensboro students paid 81 percent of the athletic department’s subsidies. Greensboro brought in almost $9 million from student fees in 2014, which required each student to pay $708.50 in addition to tuition and room and board. UNC-Charlotte was similar: In 2014, subsidies comprised 74 percent of their athletics department budget, and the majority of those subsidies were paid by student fees.
Under-performing athletics departments aren’t the only ones demanding that students pay their bills. UNC-Chapel Hill, whose athletic department saw revenues of almost $75 million in 2014 and more than $100 million in 2018, gets another $7.3 million from student fees. In the athletics-arms race, top programs seem like they compete to outspend one another; recruiting expenses and more athletic scholarships, among other costs, continue to climb. Yet, for most students, the result is a mediocre team to cheer for as the cost of college creeps up.
Madeline Baker is a summer intern with the Martin Center. She is pursuing a bachelor of science in International Economics and Finance with a minor in Spanish at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.