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Division III committee mulls future budget changes

The Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee discussed potential membership dues increases, among other topics

Thanks to championship policy changes enacted last fall, Division III’s budget isn’t projected to incur deficits until the 2019-20 academic year. However, the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee has its eyes fixed on problems that could arise down the road in hopes of avoiding the type of strain that accompanied last year’s budget changes.

While the committee did not make any recommendations that would significantly impact the division’s budget when it convened on March 10 in Indianapolis, it did weigh possible actions to address budget shortfalls projected to begin in five years.

Given the cuts made to championships spending last year, particularly to championships travel party size and per diem costs, the committee’s discussion focused on finding ways to generate more revenue. Currently, Division III annual membership dues are $900 and have remained unchanged since 1985. At the Division III Issues Forum at the 2015 NCAA Convention, 86 percent of straw poll respondents indicated they would favor a membership dues increase. Fifty-three percent favored an increase of $900 or more and 21 percent favored an increase of $1,800 or more.

While the straw poll votes are nonbinding, the results indicated strong support for a modest membership dues increase. The committee discussed concepts for a potential dues increase at length, including whether variable fees should be charged based on such factors as enrollment, number of sports programs or frequency of championships participation.

While the committee did not formally recommend raising membership dues immediately, it felt the concept deserves serious consideration in the future. A delay will provide the committee and the Division III Championships Committee time to gauge the membership’s reaction to the recent championships spending cuts. Food and lodging costs, for example, will inevitably continue to rise, and this year’s per diem rollback to $90 won’t remain viable in perpetuity. The committee acknowledged a need to raise championships per diem rates will eventually arise. However, with an overage projected in 2019-20, a membership dues increase alone may not address the projected overages.

The strategic planning and finance committee will continue to solicit membership feedback and monitor budget projections before making formal recommendations to address the issues.

“There’s a real sense that we have righted the ship, that things are solid for now and let’s fully assess the impact of the changes that have been made,” said Jay Lemons, the committee’s chair and president of Susquehanna University. “If our projections prove that there will be another period of stress that will impact us, our hope is that we can put in place a remedy, a dues increase, around the consensus that emerged from the Convention about the worthwhile investment that the NCAA is for our member institutions.”

Championships spending:

The committee approved a few recommendations from the championships committee. Those included:

  • Expanding the Division III Women’s Lacrosse Championship from 38 to 40 teams at a cost of nearly $18,000. The expansion, due to increased sport sponsorship, will be effective for the 2016 championship.
  • Approving a $200,000 one-time budget increase for the 2016 women’s basketball joint championship. The Division III final in April 2016 will be played in Indianapolis along with the Division II championship game and the Division I Women’s Final Four.

Non-championships spending:

The committee voted to approve changes to non-championships spending for the 2015-16 budget cycle. Those changes include:

  • A 2 percent increase in annual conference grant program spending, pushing it over $2.5 million.
  • Adding two additional slots to the Division III Ethnic Minority and Women’s Internship Grant Program, bringing the total to 20.
  • Cutting Division III Identity Initiative spending by almost half.
  • Reducing the budget for the 360 Proof alcohol abuse prevention program now that the infrastructure has been created and the site is live.

All recommendations will need final approval by the Management and Presidents Councils at their April meetings.