Austin Public School students react to athletics, activity fee increase

(ABC 6 News) – For the first time in 13 years, Austin Public Schools is raising its fees for school athletics and activities starting in the 2022-2023 school year.

Austin Public Schools Executive Director of Finance and Operations Andrew Beenken-Adams said when district officials were looking at the financials they realized the costs of coaches, buses, referees, spaces to practice, participate and compete have gone up to the point the district had to reassess its athletics and activity costs.

He added that the district has seen an across the board drop in participation over the last five years, "Be it football, be it speech team, you name it we’ve seen a decline."

Now, students and parents in the district are voicing their concerns.

"I feel like it’s really unfair for the people who don’t have enough money to play sports and that might be one of their dreams when they’re older," an Austin middle school student said.

APS offers a flat fee per sport. Starting this upcoming school year, high school athletes will pay $100 per sport while middle school athletes will pay $70 per sport. In years past, high school athletes would pay $80 for their first sport, $65 for their second sport and $0 for their third.

For fine arts, activities and school clubs, the price has jumped from a $25 fee to $45.

"I feel like it should be kept low so it encourages kids to go out more and stay healthy," incoming senior Andrew Clausman said. Clausman plays soccer and basketball.

"I guess personally it doesn’t really effect me but I think it’s kind of dumb just because I have friends and know people that don’t come from high-income homes," incoming Junior Nicholas Asmus said. "I feel like for some homes it could definitely push them away from it (sports)." Asmus plays soccer in the fall and runs track in the spring.

APS said it still has one of the lowest fees in southern Minnesota school districts, if not the lowest. That’s even with the rate increase.

The school board said families who are eligible for free or reduced lunches are qualified for free or reduced activity fees as well.

Beenken-Adams added if you are concerned about the increased fees, you are encouraged to talk to your coaches and the athletic director.