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Posted on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

U-M leverages student fees, football tickets and parking to pay for 6 gym and union renovations

By Kellie Woodhouse


The gym on U-M's central campus.

University of Michigan students and faculty are getting the gym and union renovations they've been requesting for at least a decade, but they're coming at a cost.

The price tag for upgrades to six facilities —three gyms, two unions and a cluster of athletic fields— is an estimated $173 million.

The renovations will be paid using a $65 per-term student fee, a $7.50 per-game increase on student tickets for football games, a $1 million annual allocation from U-M's parking and transportation department and the reallocation of $25 million in facilities funding

"Everybody's got skin in the game." said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who explained the changes to an arm of U-M's faculty senate on Monday.

With increasing frequency, faculty and students have prodded administrators to renovate school gyms and unions, but until now Coleman deferred, saying funding for renovations is tricky. Coleman and regents didn't want to reroute money earmarked for academic programs and facilities to recreational ones, but they were hesitant about raising a student fee.

A year ago Coleman sat before the very same faculty committee and told professors she wouldn't renovate gyms at the cost of academics. But officials spent the past year gauging support for a new student fee and pulling together funding sources, and on April 18 the Board of Regents approved a $65 per-term student activities fee that will expire after 30 years.

The fee will take effect in fall 2014.

Soon afterward, the athletic department announced it would increase the cost of student tickets by 23 percent, with the additional revenue going toward the renovations.

U-M Athletic Director Dave Brandon said the ticket price increase will raise just under $2 million annually.


Mary Sue Coleman

Melanie Maxwell |

"Our university is woefully behind other universities in terms of the infrastructure we have for rec sports," said Brandon, who also spoke before faculty Monday.

U-M's gyms are often criticized as aged, crowded facilities with out-of-date equipment and lackluster ambiance. They're meant for use by the general student body and not funded by the athletic department.

"We came to this resolution because of the importance of these facilities, not only for the students who use them heavily but our census data show that our faculty and staff as well use them," Coleman said. Users log roughly 1 million visits a year and, according to university figures, about 18,000 students participate in intramural sports at gym facilities.

"It took us a long time to get there, but I think that we came out at the right place," Coleman added.

Many Big Ten universities already use fees to pay for gym and union facilities. Ohio State University levies a $123 recreational fee and a $74 union fee per term, the University of Maryland levies a $153 union fee and $174 recreation facility fee per term and Penn State University levies a $112 student facilities fee per term.


Dave Brandon

Lon Horwedel |

The university plans to renovate the Intramural Sports Building, built in 1928; the Central Campus Recreation Building and the North Campus Recreation Building, both built in 1976; and improve Mitchell Fields, where students play intramural and club sports. Renovations to Michigan Union, built in 1919, and Pierpont Commons also are a part of the $173 million project.

Coleman said Pierpont Commons, the union on North Campus that has a dining area she described as a 1950s high school cafeteria, will be among the first facilities renovated. All six renovations will take several years to complete and regents are expected to approve each project separately.

"It's going to take a long time to do," Coleman said.

Under current practices, U-M students pay an $80 registration fee, about $8.70 in student government fees and an $8.50 legal fee. Resident tuition and fees at U-M are about $13,000 a year.

U-M instituted a student fee when Crisler Center, then Crisler Arena, was first built in 1967. Since then the fee has expired.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Wed, May 1, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

These fees sound like user fees to me, if the students do not want to pay for higher ticket prices "Stay Home" like I Do! I am glad this time they are not asking for more money as a taxpayer for things I do not use. I totally agree with user fees, if you use something you should be the one paying for it.


Wed, May 1, 2013 : 1:20 a.m.

I heard Mary Sue Coleman is retiring. I guess she like the AAPS superintendent need to do a lot of collateral damage as possible. Wonder if the two of them are from Maryland?


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 11:55 p.m.

Hey this gives me a Great idea. I have to paint my kids walls in her room. Even though I can afford it and have the money in the bank, I am going to charge her for her breakfasts from now on! She's only 8 but moneys money.

Audion Man

Wed, May 1, 2013 : 1:45 a.m.

Tesla, ftw!


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

Why should students who will not benefit from the increased fees pay them for renovations for future students? A much more equitable approach would be for UM to use their huge cash hoard for the renovations, and after they are done, THEN raise the fees for the students who will actually use the upgraded facilities.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 11:02 p.m.

That's quite a bargain for 6 upgraded facilities

Audion Man

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

Adequate facilities at "State of the Art" prices. The Michigan Difference.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

One thing has always been clear, building money can't come in the way of salary increases. ;)


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

How about leveraging some of that 7 Billion the university is sitting on. Or is that part of their rainy day fund?


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

Although I think these renovations are justified and overdue, the way they're being funded illustrates very clearly the basic reason for the runaway costs of a college education in America. The growing college loan bubble stems from a mentality that expenditures on newer, bigger facilities can just be passed onto students and their families in the form of higher and higher fees, tuition, room, board, etc. That's why some schools are now charging outrageous tuition of $40,000+ per year. As the article states, it isn't just U-M that's been taking this approach. It's pretty much all universities. And just because everyone else is doing it that way, doesn't make it right. Sooner or later the bubble is going to burst.


Wed, May 1, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Much of the blame of student loans, from what I have seen, is students using much of the money on things other than, fees, tuition, room, board, ect.....eating out 7 our of 10 meals, going to bars with bar taps, buying downloads, long as student loan money can be spent on what ever students want do not blame the colleges for the cost of education.


Wed, May 1, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

I'd have to go with the Duke on this. A disturbing trend over the last several years. College loan debt now surpasses credit card debt. Forty percent of recent college graduates report they are working at jobs that do not require a college degree. Recession is a large factor, but crushing student loan debt is the next bubble that can cascade. It delays marriage, major purchases etc. Related item from today:


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.

This is the short-sighte thinking that has the STATE of Michigan in so much trouble. Here are the basic numbers: Average college grad with a BA makes $1.3 million more over their career. Average Masters grad makes $2.3 million MORE over their career Average doctoral grad makes $3.3 million more. Sorry, but if you told me, pay me $160k for the ability to make $1.3 million dollars more than I otherwise would have, I would take that deal every single day. The numbers I use are based on averages,. UM students tend to be on the higher end of these numbers. A UM degree should net you far more than a degree from say Central Michigan (Nothing against CMU). The fact is the ROI is greater today than it was in 1999 when a college degree was worth about 75% more and in 2011 it was 84% more. I am not interested in hearing about individual anecdotes where your best friends dad never went to college a day in his life and he earned 10 times what a doctor makes. It is not important to the discussion. it is like saying a baseball player like ARod makes $26 million a year, so it is smarter to play baseball than get a college education.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

why not a money raising campaign?so in essence you're charging the students but how about the faculty?


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

faculty already pays to use the rec facility


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.

so the cost of my parking for work is going to go up in order to pay for new rec facilities? hopefully staff will now be able to use the facilities now for free!

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

It looks like the parking money and the $25 mil mentioned are going into the Union, while the additional fees to students into the rec facilities.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

I wouldn't be surprised if the cost of parking increased - but I didn't see anything in this article that said there would be an increase in faculty or staff parking rates. For all we know, the $1M is surplus in the parking account that is now being transferred to pay for these projects (and, of course, you could argue that it should instead by used to reduce the current parking rates). It would be nice if the reporter followed up on this.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

Perhaps it should be a spectator fee rather than a student fee to keep it fair. Why should the faculty not have to pay higher prices as well since they also use the facilities?

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

So it's optional for the faculty but not for the students? Why can't a student have the same choice?


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

staff and faculty already have to pay a membership free in order to use the rec centers - $360/year. now all of us who park will have to contribute, regardless of whether or not we are "members".


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

Finally! The NCRB is especially bad...there is not enough space for the additional users, and aerobic equipment is frequently non-functional. The CCRB was renovated many years ago to convert several courts to aerobic equipment space, so it has not been as bad as the NCRB, in my opinion. @A2Brooksie, faculty and staff do NOT get to use these facilities for free, we are charged a monthly fee, which was increased last year.

Gordon Chaffin

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

As a former Rec Sports employee (when I was UM undergrad), I can say that Rec Sports used to be a part of the Athletic Department and that it was worse than their current situation as a part of the Division of Student Affairs. (The switch was made Fall 2009, as I recall.) Brandon is chipping in not because he has to -- Martin neglected Rec Sports even when he oversaw it in fiduciary terms. This is important, and not a fee increase for a pet project. A large portion of the student body uses these facilities to workout and a sizable minority participate in IM sports. This isn't a student fee to cover a program 0.1% of the students will use. This is nothing to say that the Unions need Renos. They do.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Martin was... not good.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

Of the other schools mentioned with these fees they use to either give free access to all sporting events or reduce those prices. It is wrong that the athletic department is trying to get rid of students by increasing these prices and along with the general admission. It is clear they want to instead sell the tickets at a higher price to alum and others who will pay even more. The right thing to do is give all students the opportunity to experience one part of why our school is so great.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.

Eep, thanks. PSU's in-state tuition is higher than U-Ms, although out-of-state is lower.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5 p.m.

@Kellie - Are you sure that the other schools you listed in the article have lower tuition than Michigan? I just looked them up (in-state undergraduate tuition rates) - Ohio State and Maryland are lower, but Penn State is significantly higher.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

That said, I do think its interesting that the other schools I listed use fees as part of their cost structure but have much lower tuition than U-M, so overall their tuition and fees are still lower.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Brandon's reasoning was actually a little different. He said that the higher price will hopefully engender more commitment from student paying for tickets and therefore mean less absences for games. For example, he said 7,000 of the 22,000 ticket holders for the Northwestern game in November didn't show up.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

On another note---what is happing with Schembechler Hall. That building isn't that old, is it?

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

Morgan, all government related buildings have to be refurbished about every twenty years. Private sector buildings seem to go for longer periods without needing it.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

Schembechler Hall was built in 1990. The project will create a new entrance to the building, adding about 7,000 square feet and renovating an existing 7,000 square feet. It's paid for entirely by the athletic department.

Kyle Austin

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

When I spoke to students about the increase in ticket prices last week, they were all in agreement that the rec facilities are in dire need of an upgrade. Using a student fee to finance it doesn't surprise me, but I'd be curious as to the precedent for using an athletic ticket price hike to get the money. That seems more outside the box, and only affects a portion of the student body.

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

Most of my peers when I was at U-M agreed with this - the facilities are outdated, especially compared to other universities. It's a big area where U-M doesn't "stack up," and despite some comments here, students actually do care.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

I would like to understand more about who is the oversight for athletic department decisions? For example when they raised the basketball ticket prices and reseated the entire arena who was the oversight for that decision? When they increased the premium donation for all seats in the football stadium and added a donation for the Endzone seats who approved that decision? When they changed the student seating from assigned seats to general admission who was the oversight for that decision? The University of Michigan has always wanted to make some money in the athletic program, but there has always been some balance between making money and having a strong University of Michigan fan base. Where is the oversight that has allowed the athletic department to skew the balance only in terms of making money? Who at the university is not doing their job of oversight?

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Just be happy Mary Sue made an appearance on this issue at all. She was AWOL before.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

I would like to understand who is the oversight for AD decisions. For example when they increased the cost of the basketball tickets and reseated the entire arena, who was the oversight for that decision? When they added premium donations to the Endzone seats who approved that decision? When they turned assigned seating in the student section to general admission who approved that decision? Does the athletic department do whatever it wants to do because it always seems they are doing things at odds with the general University of Michigan fan. In the past there was always a balance between making money and having a sports program. The balance at Michigan seems to of gone right out the window in favor of making money. I would just like to know who is the oversight to these decisions that has let this balance get so out of whack.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

While it would be nice for low income students to be able to attend games, is this really a a "problem"? Getting a UM education is one thing,b ut getting to see a OSU / UM football game on the cheap is NOT something I would consider necessary. The funny part is, taxpayers pay MORE for the Detroit Lions and Detroit tigers stadiums than they do for Michigna Stadium or Crisler, yet I do not hear anybody calling for fee low income tickets for Tiger or Lions games. And for the record, UM has won MORE and more recently than either of those two clubs.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

Dave Brandon said something that was interesting yesterday. He was responding to a question about low-income students no longer being able to afford tix. He said that those kids can approach one of the thousands students not using their tickets during home game, or that they can get reduced prices on tickets on stub hub before most games (although not with big games, like OSU). He was basically saying supply/demand is on these students side.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

"If you don't want to attend football games, don't pay the $300 for a student ticket. Just is what it is." This is how I roll. Better seats viewing from home anyway. Much comfier chair, better parking, cheaper beverages. Can't beat it. But also, if you want to make a statement money talks. As in, don't buy tickets


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

The regents approve some things (like additions to the stadium, renovations to crisler and so on) but the Athletic Director makes most of the decisions you describe. Unfortunately college sports has become some sort of arms race and because of that costs are rasing fast. What you don't see is that Michigan held off on this for a very long time, and because of that our AD is now raising rates at an extremely fast pace. but when compared to other major universities around the country, we're actually still fairly cheap all things considered (price of tickets ect). The other option is that the AD could just not make money, which supports the other programs and then the educational budget is forced to fork over money to cover those expenses...or....they can just cut athletic programs. Unfortunately, that's the world we're in now. If you don't want to attend football games, don't pay the $300 for a student ticket. Just is what it is.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

" . . .got skin in the game" - more like skinned in the game?


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

So after the renovations are completed, will the ticket prices come down?


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

And after the 30 years of student fees expires, they'll "need" to upgrade it all again!

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

I know the student fee will expire after 30 years. Let me ask the university about ticket prices. I'll get back to you.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

Despite the fact that faculty is heavy users of these facilities, it seems that alot (if not all) the cost of these facilities is being put onto the back of the students. Implement student activity fees, increase student ticket prices to fund these. Perhaps a faculty activity fee would be appropriate, perhaps increase in faculty ticket prices would be appropriate.

Charley Sullivan

Wed, May 1, 2013 : 2:35 a.m.

aggat: graduate students do not pay a fee to use the facilities.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

Faculty PAYS for using the rec facilities. Those rates have increased several times in the past decade. As an alum who uses the facilities my rates have increased as well. THe CCRB may be the worst rec main rec facility in the state and Big Ten. GVSU, MSU, EMU, OSU, WMU are all facilities I have used and were FAR superior to UM's. I actually started emailing Bill Canning (Director of Rec facilities) in 2006 to discuss lockers rooms in disgusting conditions, equipment that was broken for months at a time, and the general deterioration of facilities versus the other schools I mentioned. I was given the general, we cant do it without money and it wasnt a priority. Healthy bodies INCREASE the ability to have a healthy mind. My opinion is they could not afford NOT to do it.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

I think of the recently mentioned parking money as really going into the Union (which everyone can use).


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 6:25 p.m.

Money is also coming from parking. That would not be student based. But it doesn't seem to be a lot.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

I know grad students have to pay to use the facilities, and I thought faculty did as well, so they kind of already are helping to fund it.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

excellent point, they can afford it far more than the students!


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

So, when other "businesses" want to expand/renovate facilities, do they just decide to charge more to their constituents/customers/clientele? I think not. Can not the mighty University plan ahead? Fees go up for tuition, sports, ad nauseum while society's members try to make ends meet in these challenging economic just doesn't seem fair or RIGHT.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

I actually like the styling of the Michigan Union, and the ties to history it evokes. Any renovation they do will be like all the others they've done - tasteless and gaudy. Any community college or strip mall can have garish formica and chipboard. So, yes, by all means - formica and drywall for everyone!

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

I agree with you on the architecture, but the past renovations on the Union have all been done well, I thought.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

"union renovations " See its always those unions that cost more..........oh! ..........never mind.

Steve Hendel

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 11:13 a.m.

"U-M's gyms are often criticized as aged, crowded facilities with out-of-date equipment and lackluster ambiance. They're meant for use by the general student body and not funded by the athletic department. Well maybe they SHOULD BE funded by the Athletic Department; after all, there is more to athletics than team football, basketball and hockey. The acknowledged fact that those three are "revenue sports" should not mean that virtually any expenditure on them is approved, be it luxury stadium boxes, a new practice facility or even (shudder!) the million$ upon million$ thrown at RichRod.

Jay Thomas

Wed, May 1, 2013 : midnight

Uh Johnny, they get some trivial gain on admissions for those things you mentioned. Hardly a deciding factor in their admission. Many of the athletes would simply not be admitted at all. Apples and oranges. That's why it's a trade off. We let you go to school here and you don't get to keep the money you bring in. There would be NOTHING WRONG with funding the rec buildings out of the athletic budget.

Steve Hendel

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 10:43 p.m.

I have news for Agatt and for johnnyA2: the Athletic Department is PART of the University (just as Ford Motor Credit is part of Ford Motor). The UM Regents are in charge of the ENTIRE University, just as the Board of Ford Motor controls the entire company. I am not versed in Title IX, but I cannot imagine there is anything in it REQUIRING the University to spend every cent of revenue generated by Athletic Department on Athletic Department facilities and programs.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 10:17 p.m.

Academically sub par but theater, legacy or musically gifted students are enrolled in the university as well. This is a silly argument. They are required to meet academic levels to stay at the University or they are out. The athletic department is self funded and is REQUIRED BY LAW to do certain things to meet Title IX. The same as the medical school has a different responsibility than the law school. This works in the private sector as well.Ford Motor Credit has a different goal than Ford Motor Co. One SELLS cars, the other FINANCES cars. The money comes from separate buckets and SHOULD. Each department is given a budget to meet.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

Academically sub par but athletically gifted students are enrolled in the university that would never get in on their academic merits alone. In return some of the money derived from this profitable enterprise could be relocated to the rest of the students in the same athletic department budget. Considering how much football and basketball brings in that would be a logical compromise. But it doesn't really matter what the amount is, they don't want to give anything up. They would rather spend it on new sports and rounding up any women they can find to meet title IX.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

The athletic department should not be funding facilities that are for regular students (not athletes). That's not their responsibility, it's the University's.

Hugh Giariola

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 11:04 a.m.

Students are not unlimited ATMs for the U to exploit through fees. These "fees" conveniently fall outside of tuition costs, so the U can maintain any benefits from the government for keeping tuition at a certain level.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

Student loans. They are the grease that makes the education-banking complex run smoothly.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 11 a.m.

If I were at this University for an education, I might be concerned that much of my money was being spent on anything but - Thankfully, I'm here for the facilities. There's nothing like a state-of-the-art dining hall and top-notch athletic facilities to take your mind off of a lifetime of student debt.

Audion Man

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

The sad thing is- $173 million- while it sounds spendy... it's being spent across 6 facilities. Things will improve, but given how far down the IM/CCRB and NCRB are... they are not going to end up "state of the art" or "top notch".


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 10:19 a.m.

So was U of M not upfront initially, telling us that the $65 fee was the only funding, or was reporting lacking? This "but they charge more" argument is circular in nature, and results in fees going up and up...


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

Basic math should have told you it could not be the only source. Let's say 40k students at $130 per year is $5.2 million. That won;t cover the cost of renovations even after 30 years.

Kellie Woodhouse

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

U-M regents approved the fee at an April 18 regents meeting and said the funds would go toward the renovations. At that time, hiked ticket prices had not been announced. They were announced the next week.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 10:17 a.m.

Since the athletic department is involved, will their requisite black iron fences be require at these facilities... maybe just shorter due to partial funding?

Audion Man

Wed, May 1, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

Are those fences to keep regular students out... or to keep the athletes in?