Athletic spending growth overtakes academic

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UT has the largest athletic, academic and administrative budgets in the Big 12 and UT’s athletic spending has grown faster than instructional spending, according to a new study from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

The authors of the study wrote that increases in the cost of college are justifiable when spending on academics increases, but often schools fund “layers and layers” of administration costs. Council spokesman Michael Pomeranz said the report covers fundamental measurements that are important for policy makers, students and their parents to know. The numbers in the report show how administrators prioritize items in the budget, especially because the report focuses on the growth of different budget areas over time, he said.

“Especially around this time of year, a lot of the [Big 12] schools get attention for athletics,” Pomeranz said. “It was important to refocus on what’s happening off the field.”

While UT’s academic budget was far larger than its $110 million athletic budget in fiscal year 2007-2008, the athletic budget grew at a faster rate in a shorter time period. Between 2002 and 2007, UT’s academic spending increased 30 percent and administrative spending increased 17 percent. Between 2004 and 2008, the athletics department grew 34.7 percent.

The study shows during the time period covering the 2004 to 2007 fiscal years, the athletics department, which is self-funded, increased its spending 34.7 percent, a larger increase than the 30-percent instructional or 17-percent administrative spending increases from 2002 to 2007.

Among all Big 12 universities, UT had by far the largest athletic budget in fiscal year 2007-2008. The department pays its own expenses and brought in $33 million in ticket sales for games in 2009.

Ten percent of the royalties from trademark licensing go to the University’s academic core budget. UT budget director Mary Knight said the funding from trademark licensing goes to the president’s office for teaching and research awards. The University does not use the money for anything else, such as salary increases or operating costs.

By comparison, the University Co-op gives all of its profits from merchandise to the University and has given UT $28 million in the past decade.

Classics professor Tom Palaima, a former Faculty Council chair, said the University should not cede 90 percent of its trademark licensing and royalty revenue to the athletics department. Palaima said UT is a beloved school even without its athletics.

“This kind of situation arises when the leaders of the University don’t establish proper priorities,” he said.

Heather Lakemacher, a senior program officer for ACTA, said most people would agree that the primary mission of a university should be teaching, so it’s good to question where the University is putting its resources.

Lakemacher said in some cases there may be legitimate reasons to see a much larger increase in a nonacademic area — for example, new technology being implemented across the system.

“But what we always encourage people to think about is, what does it appear that the university is doing as a trend?” she said. “Do they tend to be putting their money toward instructional spending? Do they tend to distribute it equally as they grow?”

The report suggests that while UT has the largest administrative budgetin the Big 12, the University has kept the growth of administrative costs lower than many of the other Big 12 institutions.

Knight said keeping administrative costs low to maintain high spending for academic purposes is UT’s goal. He also said 98 percent of the latest budget reduction at UT came from the University’s administrative budget.

UT has the largest budget for administration among the Big 12 schools at $89 million in fiscal year 2008, but as a percentage of its $660 million instructional budget, administrative costs were 13.5 percent of academic costs. Six Big 12 schools kept administrative costs lower as a percentage of academic costs in the same year.