The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Pandemic affects university finances

Pandemic affects university finances - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Darnell Smith, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics & Recreational Sports at Texas A&M University - San Antonio, addresses the crowd at the General's Growl pep rally to celebrate National Student-Athlete Day on April 6, 2021. Photo by Amber Esparza

The pandemic has caused U.S. universities to lose revenue at an alarming rate. Many have reduced fees in response to the shift of online instruction.

A&M-San Antonio is no exception. The university reduced fees students pay for recreational sports and student services to help students during uncertain times. 

Funk-Baxter said the university set aside approximately $3 million for lost revenue from the $19.7 million grant the university received from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).

The HEERF grant is meant to aid universities as they navigate through the pandemic. 

Funk-Baxter said fee reductions were consulted with senior administration and the affected departments, such as the athletics department and the department of recreational sports in spring 2020.

“We have smart people who are diligent about looking at our operations and being very aware and student-focused,” Funk-Baxter said. “By reducing some of these fees, I believe it helped our students. That’s what we’re here for.”

The new athletic fee was delayed as well. 

Darnell Smith, director of intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports, said being creative, flexible and adaptable was key to adjusting to the athletic fee delay. The new fee was scheduled to begin in fall 2020.

Students would have paid $10 per semester credit hour and would cap at 12 credit hours. The fee would generate $1.3 million each year.

Smith said the department found “alternative cost-saving and safe ways to accomplish tasks.” He said coaches recruited athletes virtually as opposed to traveling.

The athletic fee would normally help cover salaries, prepare for competitions, scholarships and recruiting expenses in the athletics department, Smith said. 

The recreational sports fee, which funds staffing, equipment and the Jaguar Fitness center, is estimated to normally bring $1.2 million annually, Funk-Baxter said. 

Students normally pay $100 each semester for the recreational sports fee. Funk-Baxter said the students were charged $70 during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.

The student services fee totals about $1.8 million each year and funds student activities and student support services.

The student services fee was previously part of the university services fee, Funk-Baxter said. The fee was first charged in fall 2020. Students pay $15 per credit hour and it caps at $150.

“All three of those fees provide the funding for positions and programming,” Funk-Baxter said. “We had to curtail and reduce our expenses for the amount of the fee income that we lost.”

Smith said recreational sports also had to adjust to the reduced fees. They had to reduce travel and in-person programs. 

Students were not charged the $3 international education fee, which pays to support international studies and scholarships. The fee typically grosses $43,000 annually.

Operations were expected to go back to normal fall 2020, but fees were readjusted yet again because of the circumstances.

Funk-Baxter said moving forward, the department does not anticipate anymore fee reductions for the fall 2021 semester.

“Our hope and desire is that as a campus we’re able to return to normal operations and to have a full array of services available to our students, particularly in recreational sports and athletics,” Funk-Baxter said. “We’re making all the plans to do that, but of course we also are trying to be prudent in our planning just in case we have to pivot due to health and safety reasons.”

About the Author

Daisy Gonzalez-Quezada
Daisy Gonzalez-Quezada is a communication senior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She transferred from Allen County Community College in Kansas in 2019. In her spare time, she likes to listen to music and watch either sitcoms or K-dramas. She wants to explore the world as a journalist after graduating.

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