Local Politics

Budget provision allows subsidies for athletic scholarships

Posted July 2, 2009

State budget

— State lawmakers have taken a break for the holiday weekend, but the battle over the budget won't rest.

The debate over taxes and cuts still hasn't produced a final compromise. Both the House and the Senate are still far apart on how to raise $1 billion in new revenue for the new fiscal year to help lessen the severity of state budget cuts resulting from a projected $4.6 billion deficit.

One of the sticking points is a provision that subsidizes college recruiting.

The provision, which passed quietly four years ago, allows out-of-state scholarship athletes to be charged the less-expensive in-state tuition. Universities cover the in-state costs, typically through booster club and endowment funds.

The statute costs the state about $11 million in lost revenue last year and drives the debate over tax money priorities during tough budget times.

"We're laying off teachers and cutting programs that are critical for the needs of the citizens of this state," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford. "It's very difficult to justify."

Harrison said North Carolina cannot afford to charge the lesser in-state tuition to out-of-state scholarship candidates. Dropping the provision could save nearly $14 million next fiscal year.

But Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland says the program helps the University of North Carolina system expand its pool of both academic and athletic scholarships.

"You want to get the best scholars you can get, and I would argue to you that you want to get the best athletes you can get," Rand said.

Others argue that taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize what booster clubs and endowments are already meant to fund.

Rand said the provision doesn't just subsidize high-dollar men's sports. Women's athletics benefit from the in-state provision, and smaller universities count on it.

Three-time football national champion Appalachian State University has 85 out-of-state scholar athletes in a variety of sports.

"These smaller schools couldn't possibly afford to recruit out-of-state," Rand said.

Critics argue it's not about winning but fairness.

"It just confounds me that we can continue to justify subsidizing out-of-state athletes," Harrison said. "Actually, I think it's outrageous and indefensible and unconscionable."

House and Senate leaders are still negotiating over the out-of-state athlete provision. Some want it phased out. Some want to include only academic scholarships.

Others, like Rand want to keep it as it is.


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  • colliedave Jul 3, 2009

    Given the millions shoe companies pour into the AD coffers and the big bucks poured in those coffers by organizations such as the Ram's Club forcing out-of-state athletes should pay out-of-state rates.

  • harringtonz Jul 3, 2009

    It doesn't "cost" the taxpayers a dime, much less 11-14 million $'s for these kids to come to school in NC. If you replaced the 87 ASU out of state athletes with 87 in state athletes it would cost the same thing, and these costs are mostly covered by booster clubs. The issue is not a matter of monies going out of the State's pocket, it's a matter of extra monies not going in from out of state kids. If that athlete doesn't come to school here it doesn't result in extra money being left in the till!
    Football and basketball are the sports that give the most full scholarships. This proposed change would greatly affect the so called "non-revenue" sports that, due to NCAA rules and/or budget restraints, only are able to offer partial scholarships to both in and out of state athletes. Changing the law would hurt these programs the most.
    Are sports important? For many of us they are! If nothing else it gives us something to cheer about while those idiots in Raleigh send NC down the tubes!

  • SaveEnergyMan Jul 3, 2009

    Can someone explain how giving these folks in-state tuition actually helps the academic side? I get how it helps the athletic dept- they win more, they get more donations... Maybe there are folks that give to the university (non-athletic) because athletics are doing well (aka fair weather fans), but that's a stretch.

    It seems more likely that the politicians want to give their favorite teams (UNC, NCSU, App St) an advantage so that they won't lose to the other colleges that keep doing this (Duke, VA Tech, etc). The politician's free seats at the game may depend on it.

  • southern wisdom Jul 3, 2009

    If these prima donna athletes would repay their scholarships once they turn Pro (with a penalty if they leave early) would reduce the budget short fall.

  • carlcollie Jul 3, 2009

    11-14 million dollars a year for out of state athletes and students is ridiculous when we are laying off teachers and raising taxes. That amount of money would fund 350-400 teachers per year. If the universities think they bring value that let the big time boosters and endowments fund the difference in cost.

  • WHEEL Jul 3, 2009

    "whatelseisnew" How about eliminating all out of state students for an idea equally as stupid !

  • Just the facts mam Jul 2, 2009

    The same politicians who are for NC taxpayers paying tuition for these out-of-state athletes are probably the same politicians who are saying we cannot make any more cuts and need to raise taxes. Cut waste like these and other non-necessary spending and then taxes will not need to be raised.

  • whatelseisnew Jul 2, 2009

    there is a simple and obvious solution and it would mitigate the entire budget issue. Eliminate in-state tuition for everyone.