Athletes, not students, are the university’s pride and joy


The Appalachian Online

Jonas Heidenreich

Most of us are familiar with the idea that our budgets are our values. If this is true, then I regret to say our beloved university does not value its students, at least financially.

According to a report by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, from 2005 to 2011, academic spending per student at Appalachian State University rose 1 percent, while athletic spending per athlete rose 59 percent.

This translates to $11,768 to $11,925 and $21,043 to $33,451 per student, respectively.

The university’s mission states, “Appalachian is committed to excellence in its undergraduate and graduate educational programs,” but the school has continuously focused its funding on athletics

From 2001 to 2014 we have seen a cumulative 119.5 percent increase in student athletic fees, according to Appalachian’s fact book.

The highest fee we currently pay per semester is the athletic fee, which is $350 for full-time students, according to the tuition and fees website.

Why has Appalachian put so much money into athletics? The logic makes perfect sense: having successful athletics appears to be a good investment for the school, bringing in more students and funding. But, this logic is flawed.

According to a report by the AlumniFactor, an independent company that ranks schools based on alumni, the top two reasons for alumni funding were the colleges’ ability to provide intellectual development and allow for the development of deep friendships. The way Appalachian budgets and raises its money is not conducive to providing this intellectual development.

Digging deeper beyond the burden of athletic fees into the university’s fundraising strategies, we would find a bias toward student athletes.

Campaign for Appalachian, the university’s main source of fundraising, sets goals and initiatives for each area within the university: arts, athletics and academics. Within these areas are individual scholarship goals.

Athletics’ scholarship goal is $25 million. The total scholarship goal for the eight schools within the university, however, is only $40.8 million

According to Appalachian’s Athletic Feasibility Report, there are approximately 550 student athletes. Divided by the number of student athletes, there is approximately $45,500 available to every student athlete.

But, if we took the number of undergraduate non-athletes, 15,084, divided by the total academic scholarship money, approximately $2,700 would be available for every student.

Let’s take these numbers a step further.

Tuition for a full-time undergraduate student is roughly $3,400 per semester, according to Appalachian’s website. If the scholarships the university is providing for athletes are purely for tuition, then based on calculations, it should only cost $27,200 to finance an athlete’s tuition for four years.

This leaves athletes with more than enough money to go to school for free, while non-athlete students are scraping by with inadequate scholarships.

We have to ask ourselves what we, as Mountaineers, want to be known for: an athletic powerhouse or an institution that prioritizes its students’ intellectual development?

At this university, we must reflect on our mission statement, because at this point all I read is, “Appalachian State is committed to excellence in its athletic programs at the expense of its students’ education.”

Heidenreich, a senior political science major from Charlotte, is an opinion writer.