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Minnesota High School Charging Fees for Golf, Hockey Tryouts

By now, you've likely heard of schools charging student-athletes "pay-to-play" fees to keep sports programs running in the face of budget cuts. But what about a school that charges students just to try out?

At Edina (Minn.) High School, boys and girls trying out for hockey and golf are being charged a $50 nonrefundable tryout fee, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday. The paper says that the tryout fee is believed to be the first in the state.

"With the larger numbers of kids trying out, those sports became a legitimate extra cost endured by the district," John Soma, Edina's activities director, told the paper.

I spoke with Mr. Soma over the phone Tuesday afternoon about the policy, which was implemented just this year. Five years ago, the district required a $30 fee for golf tryouts, but had dropped all tryout fees until this year.

Mr. Soma explained that the school must pay additional costs to use facilities for its hockey and golf teams, whereas it's not nearly as costly to maintain the school gymnasium for, say, a basketball or volleyball team. Therefore, only students trying out for hockey and golf are subject to tryout fees; all other athletes aren't charged.

Students participating in any sport at Edina are subject to participation fees, ranging from $140 for cheerleading, tennis, and golf, to upwards of $220 for sports like football and hockey, according to the school's website. The pay-to-play fees increased anywhere from $15 to $30 this year, depending on the sport. The most one family can pay in athletic-participation fees is $600 per year.

Any student-athlete cut from the golf or hockey team will have his or her participation fee returned, minus the $50 fee for tryouts, Soma explained to me.

One parent, whose child was cut from the hockey team this year, told the Star Tribune, that he "sees the value in what you're getting to try out," but said that the tryout fee "is just one more thing you pay. After 12 years of hockey, you're used to getting nickel-and-dimed."

Soma estimated that the tryout fees would raise $5,000 for the athletic department. The Edina school district slashed roughly $2.3 million from their overall budget this past year, according to the paper, resulting in fewer course offerings and teacher job losses.

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