MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- As the West Virginia athletic department spends more money and uses more red ink than before, the Mountaineers have actually found a way to take one cost that nearly tripled in two years and reduce it by more than 30 percent in one year.
No longer will WVU be taken to school in its summer session.
"Any kid that needs summer school to stay on track for a degree or, quite honestly, to stay eligible, we'll get that student-athlete in summer school," Athletic Director Oliver Luck said. "But if somebody just says, 'I want to take 12 hours this summer so I can graduate in three years,' we may say no to that."
Big sports and small sports have seen their student-athletes on scholarship remain on campus for part or all of the summer session in recent years to handle academic and athletic duties for their teams. As the habit spread, the costs escalated.
WVU spent $934,956 on summer classes in the 2007-08 fiscal year and $812,106 the following year. By the 2009-10 year, the number jumped to $1,506,728 and then $2,405,598 a year later.
Part of that growth has to do with rising tuition costs, but part of it can also be traced to the number of student-athletes who prefer or are required to be on campus and working out with teammates during the summer for their upcoming seasons.
Whatever the justification, it was an alarming rise and a big chunk of WVU's total scholarship bill. In the 2009-10 year, WVU's equity report listed its "Athletically Related Student Aid," which includes summer school, at $6,957,621. A year later, the number was $6,643,098.
Michael Szul, the school's associate athletic director for business, said WVU began addressing the summer school concern in the fall of 2010.
"We instituted a litmus test on all applications that we received (was the aid necessary, did they need the course due to it not being offered in the Fall or Spring term, etc.)," Szul wrote in an email. "By implementing the above procedures, we hope that we will be able to achieve more of a projected increase in summer school vs. the dramatic increase that we realized (in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal years)."
In the 2011-12 year, WVU lost about $12.9 million in athletics, due in large part to paying an enormous exit fee to leave the Big East early and join the Big 12. Yet WVU also saw the benefits of the more stringent summer school policy.