When Cutting a Team Imperils a University

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Wright State University, already on notice for its failing fiscal health, announced the elimination of the swimming and diving team.  With the decision, the University stands to lose a team that had generated more than $1.02 million in tuition and fees and effectively paid for itself through donations.

The move further imperils the future of the University.  Earlier this year the Ohio Department of Higher Education placed the University on “Fiscal Watch” for failing to reach the state’s fiscal benchmarks two years in a row.   The solution, according to Finance Committee Chair Doug Fecher, is increased enrollment and retention, something the swimming and diving team contributed to with an average of over forty students each year and a retention rate that exceeds the rest of the student body.

In the Spring, faced with the prospect of elimination, the team generated over $100,000 in donations within eighteen days.  That was more than the teams’ combined operating budgets, but the cloud of uncertainty led to the transfer or decommitment of twenty-four students and a loss of at least $469,262 in tuition and fees.

Now that cloud of uncertainty is extending to the entire university as an exodus of students have left the formerly-prosperous university.  This Fall the institution expected a 5.4% decrease in enrollment - nearly double the rate from the previous year while budget cuts have led to the University eliminating 178 positions. 

Among those still standing are Athletic Director Robert Grant.   According to the Dayton Daily News, Grant saw the athletic department budget grow by $1.6 Million just as he was eliminating a swimming and diving program that attracted, retained and graduated the types of students that Wright State professes to want on campus.

As a new president who claims to be a good communicator, you would think she would want to engage the people who are the most passionate and willing to contribute to Wright State.  Here is a decision that has led to the loss of a million dollars in revenue along with some of our brightest students.
— Kevin Aukerman

According to CSCAA Executive Director Joel Shinofield, “This lack of understanding of how a team contributes to the student experience, the institutional mission and the institution’s fiscal health really shows how shortsighted this decision is, the loss of this team indicates that they don’t understand how additional cuts to programs and faculty will further undermine the University’s future.”

Many prominent donors have echoed the same sentiments about the Wright State administration.  Kevin Aukerman, a Interventional Radiologist, parent of WSU Swimmer and a university donor cited president Dr. Cheryl Schrader’s refusal to  hear an alumni proposal that would have effectively paid for the teams operations through outside donations.

“As a new president who claims to be a good communicator, you would think she would want to engage the people who are the most passionate and willing to contribute to Wright State.  Here is a decision that has led to the loss of a million dollars in revenue along with some of our brightest students.  She had no interest in hearing alternatives or creatives ideas that have worked at other institutions.”

Shinofield went on to say “The swimming and diving program should be part of the university’s plan for a turnaround, something that parents, alumni, students and donors hoped to discuss with the new president, but were denied the opportunity.”