Referendum to Raise Student Fees Could Decide Fate of CSUN Athletics


Bob Rowell, who has experience in this sort of thing, sends his regards to Cal State Northridge. Maybe he should send a rabbit’s foot instead.

Rowell, an assistant athletic director at rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, recently weathered a campus election in which funding was the political football. Students approved a substantial fee increase to support athletics.

Northridge on Tuesday and Wednesday is conducting a similar election that could chart the school’s athletic course well into the next century.

“I hope it passes,” Rowell said. “It sure helped us.”


Northridge students will be asked to vote on a referendum that, if passed, would increase fees from $4 to $49 per semester or $98 annually. If the proposition fails, Northridge, after five seasons in NCAA Division I, might be forced to eliminates several men’s programs and revert to Division II.

The Northridge athletic department anticipates the loss in 1995-96 of roughly $700,000 from a budget that this year stands at $3.6 million. The football team faces elimination and scholarships will be lost in many sports.

The referendum would leave Northridge students with an annual registration fee of roughly $2,014, which would rank third on the 1994-95 list of the 20 schools in the Cal State University system. Cal State San Marcos, the newest school in the chain, is the least expensive at $1,700.

Yet comparing athletic budgets and sources of revenue can be a tricky proposition. Dollars and cents at one campus are apples and oranges at another. Schools might share CSU membership, but each has a different way of paying for sports programs.


“One thing that you don’t have a measure of is that Northridge is one of the newer institutions (in Division I),” said Bob Hiegert, Northridge’s athletic director. “San Diego State, Fresno and others have played at that level for some time and have facilities and support groups in place.

“We’re playing catch-up.”

The catch for students, of course, is the price tag. CSU students subsidize athletics through membership fees paid to the Associated Students or a program called Instructionally Related Activities, which funds dozens of extracurricular programs from student registration fees.

Dollar totals can vary significantly in each category. Students at three CSU schools pay $10 annually to IRA; the fee at another is $200. Athletic programs often receive a percentage of the pie from each account.

CSU schools augment their athletic budgets through a variety of formulas.

For example:

* CS Northridge ($3.6 million budget): Northridge has the sixth-highest registration total in the system at $1,916 annually, which includes $96 in combined IRA ($30) and Associated Students ($66) fees.

The average charged to CSU students in 1994-95 is $42 in IRA and $49 from Associated Students, or $91 combined.


If the referendum passes, combined AS and IRA fees at Northridge will increase from $96 to $194 per student. Admission to athletics events would remain free to students.

The current annual cut for Northridge athletics is $8 per student from AS and $17 from IRA.

* Cal Poly SLO ($4 million budget): The Mustangs are in the third of a four-year plan in which IRA fees are being raised incrementally to fund sports. This year the IRA fee has been raised to $135, the second-highest total in the CSU. The total Associated Students charge annually is $50 per student for a total of $185, also the second-highest in the system.

Each quarter, the AS chips in $4 and IRA adds $43 per student to athletics. There is no admission charge at athletic events for students.

* Fresno State ($10.8 million budget): Perhaps the most-successful program in the CSU, Bulldog athletics have received no money this year from the Associated Students or IRA coffers. Students pay $52 in combined IRA and AS fees annually.

The Associated Students stopped funding athletics in 1981. Students nonetheless pay for athletics through other means. At Fresno, though, it’s more of a user-fee process.

Students must purchase a $90 season pass for the 1994-95 men’s basketball season. Student tickets to individual games in basketball are unavailable.

Student tickets for this week’s home football game against Wyoming are $9.


* San Diego State ($9.75 million): The second-most prominent athletic program in the CSU receives no money from the Associated Students.

The Aztec athletic department gets $17 annually per student in IRA fees. Students pay $60 in combined IRA and AS fees and are admitted free to athletic events.

* Long Beach State ($4.2 million): Last spring, Long Beach students passed a referendum increasing IRA charges from $25 annually to $50. It takes effect in 1995-96 and will raise combined IRA and AS fees to $84 annually.

Athletics received $15 per student in IRA fees this year and nothing from AS fees. Admission for students to athletic events is free.

* Sonoma State ($1.1 million): Last spring, students at the non-scholarship Division II school passed a referendum in which yearly IRA fees were hiked to $200 per student, well above the CSU average of $42. Athletics receives $150 per student.

It was the largest IRA increase in CSU history. However, Sonoma State does not receive funding from the Associated Students. Admission for students is free.

No surprise here: As a result of the IRA charge, Sonoma State’s registration fee of $2,070--which includes $274 in combined IRA and AS fees--for 1994-95 is the highest in the CSU.

* CS Sacramento ($2.5 million): Sacramento, which plays in the same conference with Northridge in many sports, receives $5.50 per student annually from IRA and $5 from Associated Students.

Students pay $96 in combined IRA and AS fees, and student admission to athletic events is free.

* CS Dominguez Hills ($750,000): The Dominguez Hills athletics department, which competes in Division II and does not field a football team, receives $9 annually per student from the Associated Students and $5.50 in IRA fees.

The combined IRA and AS fees are $45 per student. Students are not charged for athletic events.

Demographics and geography play an indisputable role in the referendum process.

In the fall of 1991, Cal Poly asked students to help bankroll a move from Division II to Division I. Turnout was the largest for any election in school history.

“It was a popular topic,” Rowell said.

Of the 17,000 students enrolled at the time, 10,000 cast votes, he said.

“Passed by 400 votes,” Rowell said.

Northridge, with an enrollment of 24,000 that includes thousands of older students who commute to the school and do not attend games, doesn’t anticipate the same response at the polls. A similar Northridge referendum in the spring lost by a 993-906 margin.

Northridge and Cal Poly are in the CSU and both play in the American West Conference. Beyond that, the schools are located on different planes.

“I don’t know that Northridge is in the same kind of situation,” Rowell said. “They’re a commuter school and our students generally live here.”

It’s just a hunch, but Rowell figures the Northridge referendum has a good chance of passing. Maybe CSU schools aren’t so different after all, he said.

“Athletics is an important part of what we do (as schools),” Rowell said. “I think people there will realize that too.”

California State University Selected Student Fees for 1994-95

University IRA* AS+ Registration Fee Dominguez Hills $10 $35 $1,791 Fresno $20 $32 $1,798 Long Beach $25 $34 $1,749 Northridge $30 $66x $1,916 Sacramento $16 $76 $1,860 San Diego $30 $30 $1,902 San Francisco $70 $84 $1,978 San Jose $40 $64 $1,966 Cal Poly SLO $135 $50 $2,027 Sonoma $200 $74 $2,070 CSU Average $42 $49 $1,853

Source: CSU Chancellor’s Office

* Instruction Related Activities

+ Associated Students organization

x Would increase $98 if referendum passes

Note: Fees represent total annual charge to students in these categories--athletics receives a percentage of the amount in many cases. Not included above are campus fees for student union facilities, health facilities and health services. All fees are for full-time state residents.