Two dollars, is too much

On the first day of spring break, FAU Athletic Director Craig Angelos was pacing the hallway outside of President Frank Brogan’s posh meeting room on the third floor of the administration building. Angelos had called the meeting to discuss raising student fees $2 per credit hour, but he couldn’t start without FAU’s most important student – SG President Alvira Khan.

Khan was already 20 minutes late, so Angelos went back inside Brogan’s personal meeting room, sat down at the massive wood table and tried calling her – for the second time that morning.

This was supposed to be the second meeting of a special committee that Brogan and Khan had created to discuss raising the students’ fees to support FAU’s football team – and cut into the program’s much-publicized seven-figure debt. Angelos had spoken with Khan by phone minutes earlier and expected her to be there by now. Angelos left the table and pulled aside FAU Attorney David Kian. After a 15-minute conversation behind closed doors, they concluded that the meeting could legally continue, but no decision could be made without at least three student leaders there. And only one was: Treasure Coast Governor Helen Marshall.

Eventually, SG Controller Lisa-Ann Polack arrived to let everyone know that Khan had gone home and Boca SG Governor Dan Wilson was “not feeling well.” But Polack didn’t serve on the committee herself. She couldn’t vote.

So instead further discussing the fee hike, Angelos led a recap of the previous meeting the week before – at which Khan was also absent.

“[Senate Speaker] Johnson joined us on the phone,” Angelos recalled. “Aside from Helen, he is the most consistent, showing up once in person, and once on speakerphone.”

Even with intense student lobbying, chances are good that FAU students will get socked with some sort of extra fee – President Brogan began the first meeting on Feb. 28 by announcing his support for the $2-per-credit-hour hike and urged students leaders to do the same.

But without any student leadership present, any chances to negotiate the terms or size of that hike looks slim.

Marshall, a Criminal Justice major from Port St. Lucie, has been skeptical about piling more fees onto FAU students who already pay $34.91 per credit hour in addition to their tuition. But she’s literally been the lone student voice questioning the wisdom of the fee hike.

For example, Marshall asked Angelos, “Could you talk about the value football really brings?”

Angelos replied, “It is subjective. When you win, applications spike.”

Marshall also listened as FAU Executive Vice President and Brogan’s Chief of Staff Lawrence Davenport said, “Only athletics programs attract people. How do you find ways to spread the word? Athletics. College life enriches student life, and athletics is student life. Those are my biases, though.”

But as a student, Marshall’s biases are different. She told the committee members, “I have been asking around, and no one is coming to FAU because the tennis team is good.”

Marshall is also concerned that FAU students already pay the highest athletic fee in the state.

“Isn’t it extremely rare for a football program to make money anywhere?” Marshall asked Angelos. “They usually don’t pay for themselves, let alone pull in more money.”

Angelos agreed. “You are generally right. Top programs – UM, FSU and UF – all run in the black,” he said, meaning they just pay for themselves. At a later meeting, he added, “You have 2.9 mil worth of costs every year. We are a young department and we aren’t making anymore than we spend. We are who we are when it comes to attendance. The games averaged about 15,000 a game.” According to FAU’s Athletics website, the football team averaged 10,784 people for their five home games last year.

But Dennis Crudele, FAU’s Vice President for Administration, told other committee members that the fee hike would deliver an extra $1.25 million directly to the football team. “Our goal is a stadium here in the next two years,” Angelos said.

Marshall had further concerns, “Can’t we stop filling our teams with out-of-state students?”

FAU pays 200 full scholarships to athletics; of those the Football team receives 85, while Tennis is supplied four and a half. But, those four and a half scholarships cost the same as twenty-three scholarships for Floridians. “I just want Florida students, and their parents who pay these fees and taxes here, to get these benefits,” she said.

“We need to keep in mind competitiveness … we either have to get the best athletes or save money.” Angelos added, “I would rather drop programs.”

Associate Vice President of Broward Campus Joyanne Stephens, also Title IX Chair, responded, “You can’t drop women’s programs, there aren’t enough.”

Currently there are 17 sports programs at FAU. Both men’s and women’s programs must, by law, spend equal amounts of money, but football increases the men’s spending dramatically, allowing for more spending on women’s teams. According to Title IX laws only men’s teams can be cut at this point.

Khan, who did not respond to three calls and two emails over a 10-day period, previously showed interest in diverting funds from transportation and health fees. Although she did not attend the meetings, Crudele answered her questions, “These fees were increased fifty-cents three years ago to stockpile money for new facilities, and now they are being built … I don’t see reallocation of athletics, activity and services or health fees as a real option,” Crudele said.

“Is reallocating transportation fees an option?” Polack asked. Crudele responded, “I don’t see that. These are statutory fees, and we are building a parking garage in Davie.”

At the fourth weekly meeting, Brogan and Angelos announced that the committee could not formally decide anything on any type of fee reallocation, because separate committees are required by law to discuss each department’s fee allocations. But, Brogan wanted to make sure that he could go to the Board of Trustee’s meeting with the student’s support the first week of April.

Marshall said, “Kids up north pay the same fees and get squat. When more is added, it is hard. We fight tooth and nail, and we end up getting thrown a bone.”

After President Brogan’s promise of a five-year cap on the $2 increase and the assurance that other committees will examine other fees, Johnson gave his approval for the tuition increase.

“I have a harder time than David, I heard nothing about making up fees from the administration … Undergrads got a 7% increase in tuition, graduate students pay more. None of our salaries are going up. We have no grants, no one is paying us more, and prices keep going up.”

In the end, it is just a question of where to get the two dollars from. Khan would like to see it reallocated from some other program, though she, and her staff that attended the meetings, have suggestions the Administration cannot work with due to state laws and prior projects.

Director of Boca Counseling Center David Wallace said, “Athletics is looking for an increase, we are just looking for no more decreases.”

The Administration is taking a different approach though, “Something will eventually collapse unless we stabilize the growth of football, we need to look at multiple approaches,” Angelos said. He later added, “Why did we start football if it isn’t profitable? The point is the horse is out of the barn and the genie is out of the bottle … we can’t go back now.”

Angelos made the position of the FAU Administration clear in the end, “Brogan has made the call to keep football. It is our job as the worker bees to make it fit.”

Athletics Fees in Florida Universities:

FIU – $10.00FAU – $13.75 (After increase)UCF – $11.09UF – $1.90FSU – $4.98USF – $9.08UNF – $10.25UWF – $12.05FAMU – $8.75NCF – $2.00

Source: Office of Data Analysis and Institutional Research

FAU Tuition and Registration Fees Breakdown:

In-State Undergraduates:

Matriculation Fees – $68.16Out of State Fees – N/ABuilding Fees – $2.32Capital Improvement Fees – $2.44Student Financial Aid Fees – $3.40Activity and Service Fees – $10.00Athletics Fees – General – $10.00Athletics Fees – Football – $3.75 (Proposed)Student Health Fees – $5.00

Source: FAU Controller Office