Due to budget shortfalls, many states and school districts are implementing pay-to-play policies that allow collection of fees for participation in extracurricular activities such as school sports. The number of school districts with these policies has grown over the last decade, with some states reporting a two-fold increase. Although the extent of these policies and the amount of the fees for participation vary greatly, it seems likely that the overall effects of pay-to-pay policies may disproportionally affect low-income students.
This project aims to explore the extent to which pay-to-play policies affect high school sports participation and assess the perceived impact of these policies on sports participation among low-income high school students. This is a multi-method study that includes a literature review, state law content analysis, key informant interviews, and a nationwide survey of school district athletic directors. Information from the review, content analysis, and qualitative exploratory interviews will be used to develop an online survey to be given to a national sample of school district athletic directors. Findings can help identify and quantify current trends with pay-to-play policies and inform stakeholders and district decision makers on any disparities in sports participation related to these policies. Dissemination of findings will be tailored to academic, school, and consumer audiences.
Budget cuts have forced many school districts to prioritize school programs, and extracurricular activities such as sports are often viewed as less essential than academics. Yet rather than reducing or eliminating sports programs altogether, some districts are electing to transfer some of the costs of sports participation to student athletes and their families. This opens the door to wide variation of fees and processes, and may contribute to inequities in sports participation for low-income students already at higher-risk for poorer health outcomes.