Akron-AAUP realizes that the University of Akron (UA) is in a financial crisis. To address this crisis, the administration has asked colleges to propose FY21 budgets with cuts ranging from 18% to 35%. Wages and benefits comprise the major portion of the academic budget; therefore, we anticipate significant faculty reductions. Akron-AAUP firmly believes that making these kinds of cuts is not a feasible means of addressing this budget crisis, will not lead to future success for the University, will negatively impact student success and graduation rates, and will create so much negative publicity that the University may never return to pre-COVID 19 enrollment levels.
For years, the University has disinvested in academics while simultaneously losing millions on its athletics programs. In the spirit of shared sacrifice, we believe that it’s time to move to a responsible and sustainable model of funding for athletics. This change is necessary if we are to preserve and protect the University’s central mission of education and research, attract future students, and ensure that current students have the quality programs and faculty they need to succeed.
The vast majority of the University’s revenue comes from student tuition and fees–from its academic programs. Athletic programs, on the other hand, cost far more than they bring in. The University has been losing an average of $21.52M per year on athletic programs for the last ten years. This totals $215.23M in lost revenue over that span. This is unnecessary, and at a time when the University is proposing to cut an anticipated 25% of its overall academic budget, it is no longer defensible. It is also not fair to our students, who are subsidizing athletics at a higher rate than students at other Ohio public universities.
In this report, we present data showing that many millions of dollars must be diverted from the General Fund each year to support Athletics. Yet the Administration has failed to address this problem. We acknowledge that there would be an up-front cost in the first year to leave Division I football, and given the University’s current financial status, this upcoming year may not be the year to do so. However, the Board of Trustees and the Administration must do more to cut the drain on UA’s finances caused by Athletics now and should commit to structural change in the future. This would allow the University to preserve the quality of its programs for our students by saving faculty jobs.
We welcome a conversation with the University’s leadership about this subject and other potential avenues for reducing the cost of athletics. It’s only through shared governance, transparency, and collaboration that the University can confront our current challenges and set itself on a sustainable path.
We urge all faculty, administrators, staff, students, and community members to read the full report.
If you agree that students should come before athletics, SIGN OUR OPEN LETTER.