School districts in the United States are turning toward new sources of revenue to maintain their interscholastic sports programs. One common revenue generating policy is the implementation of participation fees, also known as pay-to-play. One concern of the growing trend of participation fees is how it impacts student participation opportunities. This study looks at how pay-to-play fees are impacting participation opportunities and participation rates in the state of Michigan.
Through merging 3 school-level data sets, Civil Rights Data Collection, the Common Core of Data, and participation information from MHSAA (Michigan High School Athletic Association), bivariate analysis and ordinary least squares regression were used in our analysis.
Our findings indicate that certain types of schools are able to support pay-to-play fees: relatively large schools that are located in suburban, white communities, with relatively low poverty rates. We also found that participation fees are not decreasing the number of sport opportunities for students, participation opportunities are higher in schools with fees; but participation rates are similar between schools with and without participation fees.
Participation fee policy implications are discussed and we offer suggestions for future research.