Schools Stunned by MN High School League’s Huge COVID-19 Fee Increase

The Minnesota State High School League has reversed course, finally falling into line with neighboring states by reinstating the fall seasons for football and volleyball. Now if schools could only convince the MSHSL to overturn an unprecedented rate increase the league directly attributes to COVID-19 that will raise rates by 300 percent at some schools in the midst of the pandemic.

The non-profit league’s timing couldn’t be worse with schools forced to figure out whether to make cuts to raise the funds or stick it to parents, according to the St. Cloud Times.

Area schools are searching for the money to pay for this almost $10,000 increase just as the school year gets rolling. It’s unclear whether students and families will be asked to pay more or whether the shortened seasons will help reduce expenses for activities offices across the state.

The MSHSL, which oversees high school sports and some activities statewide, has taken a huge revenue hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s boys state basketball tournament and part of the girls tournament, as well as the entire spring sports season were cancelled, leading to revenue losses.

Now that COVID-19 has continued this school year, the MSHSL had to change its budget.

Schools already faced significant budget and other changes of their own this fall due to Covid-19. So the big bump in the league’s extracurricular fees out of the blue only makes matters worse. For example:

Sartell will pay $15,945 this year compared to $4,320 last year, according to Sartell activities director Ryan Hauge.

Sauk Rapids is expected to pay $15,826 this school year and paid about $3,800 last year, according to Sauk Rapids activities director NaDean Schroeder.

…”[It’s] never a good time to take a financial hit like that, but it’s especially hard in a lot of ways during COVID-19,” [Albany activities director Scott] Buntje said. “I hope there are some plans going forward on how to ease this burden for schools.”

After running up about $400,000 in red ink last season, the MSHSL has taken measures to cut costs. But evidently nowhere near enough.

This year, the approved budget his down about 43%,, with $5,258,300 in revenue and $5,372,400 in expenses, which puts the MSHSL about $114,000 in the red.

In a letter sent recently to member schools, the MSHSL says the league cut staff from 23.5 to 19.5 positions before the 2020-21 school year. The league is also freezing wages, reducing or eliminating league publications and moving league meetings online to reduce or eliminate other costs.

The MSHSL hopes to return some of the tone-deaf COVID-19 participation fee increase if things return to normal. In the meantime, schools’ first pandemic penalty payment is due October 1.