Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why the State's Budget Woes Will Increase the Number of In-State Athletes

Monday, we looked at how this year's state budget cuts will affect MSU athletics. Tuesday, we looked at how those cuts will hit the university as a whole. Today, we pull out our crystal ball and peer into the future.

It will come as no surprise that the cash-strapped state of Michigan just isn't investing in higher education like it used to. State appropriations rose 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, which might sound good on it's own, but it isn't. The cumulative rate of inflation over that time period was a hair over 30 percent, which means that state appropriations to MSU actually fell in real dollars over those ten years. Not only that, but it's way below the national average of a 55 percent increase over ten years.

So what does the future hold for state funding? Nothing good. The small cuts this year, minimized by federal stimulus funding rules that prevented them from being sliced even more, will likely be magnified next year when those rules go away.

That, in turn, will increase tuition, placing a further burden on athletic budgets. The department doesn't get discount rates for tuition, it pays at the same rate as everyone else. However, the athletic department brings in out-of-state students at a much higher rate than the general student population, so those tuition payments are even more expensive. Consider that the estimated room/board/tuition cost for an out-of-state student is about $35,276 a year, while in-state students pay just $18,878.

My guess is that over the next few years we'll see that ratio swing back closer to the general student population's averages. In fact, we're already seeing such a move with the football team. According to, MSU has 12 verbal commits in its 2010 recruiting class, and eight of them are from Michigan.

Using those tuition estimates, MSU's football program is poised to save more than $520,000 over the next four years just from those eight kids not being out-of-state students. That's not chump change, and if Mark Dantonio can find a way to recruit mostly in-state and still win consistently on the national stage, this could be the money-saving wave of the future.

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