Across the past year, school districts nationwide have either instituted or explored charging participation fees for student athletes as a way to raise more funds for struggling public school budgets. Now a school in Minnesota is taking that concept a huge, presumptive leap forward: It's charging students just to try out for varsity teams.
As first reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune's MNHockeyHub website, Edina (Minn.) High has begun charging students who try out for a spot on the school's varsity hockey or golf teams a $50 participation fee. That fee is nonrefundable, and goes straight into athletic department coffers whether the students earn a spot on the varsity team or not.
If the players are chosen as part of the team, they are forced to pay additional fees. Edina hockey players pay a total of $220 for the winter sport while golfers pay $140. The $50 fee counts toward that total.
The larger question, of course, is how a school district can justify charging students just to try out for a sport. Essentially, Edina is charging a $50 one-time use fee just to practice with equipment it owns. In the case of the Edina hockey team, that fee was charged for all 42 of the players who tried out for the varsity program and were cut during the program's tryouts.
That may seem particularly harsh, but one Minnesota State High School League board member said he anticipates more school districts will jump into the tryout fee fray in coming months and years.
"You probably will see more of it," MSHSL board member Kevin Merkle told the Star Tribune. "What it kind of comes down to is, raise fees or cut sports."
For Edina, the tryout fee is expected to raise some $5,000, which Edina Activities Director John Soma said will be pumped back into the school's general fund in the same way ticket sales to sporting events are added to the general fund.
Naturally, $5,000 is no trivial sum but remains just a drop in the bucket of the $2.3 million cut from the school district's budget before the start of the 2011-12 school year. While that could provide parents an opportunity to cry injustice, at least one hockey parent said they didn't anticipate anyone would flinch at the questionable new fees.
Edina Hockey Association board member Jim O'Neill, whose son, Aaron, was cut from the varsity this year, said he "sees the value in what you're getting to try out," but added the $50 fee "is just one more thing you pay. After 12 years of hockey, you're used to getting nickel-and-dimed."