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KS lawmaker blasts community college spending on athletes

Community college support for out-of-state athletes is drawing the attention and ire of at least one Republican in the Kansas State Legislature. Rep. Kristey Williams recently reflected on a report by the State Auditor’s office that showed that at least four of the state’s 19 community colleges had provided most of their athletic scholarships to students who were from out of state or out of the country.

According to the report, 80% of students who attend Kansas community colleges are from Kansas. Three community colleges, which were the primary focus of the auditor’s report, spent an average of nearly $3M on athletic programs, salaries, equipment, and transportation. The colleges – Butler Community College, Hutchinson Community College, and Garden City Community College – also spent an average of $1.2M each year on athletic scholarships between 2018 and 2022, the five-year period the state auditors reviewed.

So, you might think that Williams’ complaint was about community colleges spending tax dollars on athletic scholarships for out of state and international students. Nope.

The state laws of Kansas bar community colleges from spending federal, state, or local money on athletic scholarships. So where did the money come from? Student tuition and fees, as well as athletic event ticket sales and concession revenues. The Kansas community colleges in the auditor’s report used fees paid by students to fund athletic scholarships.

In other words, students – many of whom may have struggled to pay their own attendance costs – were fee’d to the tune of $1.2M per year to pay for the attendance costs of out-of-state student athletes.

You have to admit that there is something inherently unfair about using other people’s money to subsidize the attendance costs of out-of-state students.

Non-resident community college students should pay full attendance costs

I will be the first to say that Washtenaw County residents are generous to a fault when it comes to educational spending, but I sincerely doubt that anyone in this county believes that as taxpayers, we should be subsidizing the education of people who don’t live in Washtenaw County, don’t work in Washtenaw County, and likely never plan to set foot in Washtenaw County.

Exactly what is the benefit to the public for subsidizing the education costs of people with no specific connection to Washtenaw County? Local taxes pay for the largest slice of WCC’s funding. Student tuition and fees make up the second-largest slice of WCC’s budget. Last fall, instead of raising the attendance costs of those students who use our resources at a discount, the WCC Board of Trustees voted to raise the tuition costs of local students. Not to mention the fact that the local property tax assessment generated $7M more than it did the year before.

If WCC needs more money in the budget, the administration should be required to tell the out-of-state online crowd that they’ll need to go without subsidies from the Washtenaw County taxpayers.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Milby , via Flickr