CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - It costs a lot of money to make sure any college athletic department is competitive. At Coastal Carolina University, the student body foots the brunt of that big bill.
Whether students attend sporting events on campus or not, they paid what the school calls a student activity fee. It's five to six percent of their tuition every semester. There's a breakdown of where all of the money goes on its website. This year, in-state students paid $276 per semester and out-of-state students paid $724.
CCU's In-State Tuition Distribution:
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CCU's Out-of-State Tuition Distribution:
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That money directly supports the athletics program. In the 2014-15 school year, that support added up to more than $4 million. According to records the school must file with the NCAA, student fees sent more than $3,000 to men's basketball and $1.5 million dollars straight to the football program.
"Our students in a lot of ways are our number one donors and we're very aware of that," said CCU Athletic Director Matt Hogue, "We're appreciative of that. When you boil that down and you look at the student fee and you look at the amount of events that we play in any given year, you're talking about literally a couple dollars per event."
Out of all of Coastal Carolina's 19 teams, only four charge admission to home games. Fans must buy a ticket to see baseball, football and men's and women's basketball. Anyone can get season tickets for all four sports for $350. That's $180 less than the reported student athletic fee.
But before you make up your mind about the necessity of this fee, it's important to know part of it was the students' idea.
In 2008, Student Government went to the school's board, willing to pay a capital fee. The money helped construct the building basketball fans watch their team play in now. It is also created the fitness facility for anyone with a Coastal Carolina ID Card. CCU doesn't report a separate activity fee to the South Carolina Commission of Higher Education.
In the grand scheme of things in our state, Coastal Carolina's fee falls right in the middle of other public institutions.
Clemson doesn't have a fee at all. Its student government actually told the school's board students weren't willing to pay one. The students believed entry to events should be free and private donations should fund athletics. The board agreed.
The University of South Carolina's is $104 for the year. Its website says that is an optional fee for students who want to attend athletic events.
Then you find Coastal Carolina. It reported to the Commission on Higher Education students pay a $530 yearly fee that is dedicated to intercollegiate athletics.
The College of Charleston has an average fee over $1,200, and at SC State and The Citadel, that charge is more than $2,000 every year.
Tuition and Required Fee Summary - see page 5 for a detailed breakdown of tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduate students:
In March of 2015, Virginia decided fees were too high, so its legislature capped them. Under that state's new law, a school at CCU's level can only use student fees to pay for up to 55 percent of the athletic department budget. Coastal Carolina was at 17 percent last year. No limit exists in South Carolina.
With Coastal Carolina's pending move to the Sun Belt, it'll be on a playing field closer to Clemson and South Carolina. That doesn't mean the fee will go down but Hogue says it won't increase.
"It's not going to go up," he said. "I can tell you that even with our move to the Sun Belt. That's a pledge our board has made."
The fee hasn't changed much since it was instituted. Through the Freedom of Information Act, WMBF News found documents that show the average CCU student was paying about $407 that ended up squarely in the middle of the athletic budget in 2010. By 2014, that was $423.
Like with any investment, there has to be a return.
Hogue makes it clear he believes the return goes beyond admission to games, or even a place to work out.
"When you look at a NCAA tournament that generated millions of dollars of exposure, yes they're making a good investment," he said. "When you see a story about coach Moglia on 60 Minutes, yes we're making a good investment. When you see a Gary Gilmore have a team in the national playoffs that's getting attention, that investment is sound. When you see the type of impact that Coastal Carolina has on our area, that investment is being returned."