Letter: Athletic spending drives up tuition and fees

Taylor Tougaw

The CSU administration continues to make misleading claims about rising tuition, some of which are repeated in the Collegian’s Oct 26 article on “The Exponential Rise of Tuition Beyond Inflation.”


For example, President Tony Frank blames the increase in tuition on cuts in state support. That is simply not true. Tuition has risen by far more than was needed to offset cuts in state support.

CSU’s budget for the next fiscal year shows that tuition increases will add $18.8 million to university revenues. Yet state budget cuts are projected to reduce revenues by only $0.1 million.

What is the university doing with all the additional money from tuition increases? Unfortunately, it is not spending more on academics. As President Frank notes, instructional spending per student has remained flat. Instead, the university has used the additional money to dramatically increase spending on athletics, especially football.

CSU athletic spending has risen from $26.0 million to $38.8 million since Tony Frank was appointed president in 2009. Over the same period, revenues from ticket sales, contributions and other athletic enterprises rose from $14.2 million to just $18.0 million.

Driving up costs faster than revenues would be a losing strategy in any industry aside from higher education. CSU is forced to make up the difference by subsidizing athletics with increased tuition and fees.


According to the NCAA, total athletic subsidies at CSU came to $20.4 million in 2015. That has driven up the cost of education much more than state budget cuts.

During Tony Frank’s tenure as president of CSU, athletic subsidies have risen by 70% while academic budgets have been cut or frozen. Students have been paying more and more for their education but getting less and less in return.

The administration has tried to deny and deflect these basic facts. That has led them into some very questionable claims about tuition and fees at CSU.

For example, Lynn Johnson, a CSU vice president, has claimed that raising the minimum wage would force the university to raise student fees or to cut budgets. Yet CSU would be able to afford the minimum wage increase if it reduced its huge subsidies of athletics. Blaming its lowest paid workers for student fee increases is divisive and dishonest.

President Frank has set CSU on a permanent path toward much higher athletic spending. Football coach Mike Bobo’s $1.45 million salary is the highest in the Mountain West. Lynn Johnson should blame his excessive pay for the university’s inability to afford the minimum wage increase.

The new stadium will eliminate tailgating, force students to re-park their cars on game days, and drive up ticket prices. It is hard to see how students benefit from this boondoggle. Yet they are the ones at risk since their tuition and fees will have to be raised even further in the likely event that the stadium cannot generate sufficient revenues to cover its own costs.

Tuition and fees have risen far too much in large part because of excessive spending on costly non-essentials like football. Blaming it on cuts in state support is nothing more than a way for the CSU administration to avoid responsibility for its own bad values and choices.

by Steven Shulman

Professor of Economics

Steven Shulman is a CSU professor of economics and research director for the Center for the Study of Academic Labor. Send comments and requests for sources to steven.shulman@colostate.edu.