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Indian River State officials talk finances, future of athletics at college

"We've had reduction and elimination of athletics, as the economics of running a state college become tighter,' Annabel Robertson says
Posted at 6:40 PM, Apr 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 20:00:22-04

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — Indian River State College is answering more detailed questions about the school's decision to end the women's basketball program.

Following a WPTV report on what the school’s public records revealed about its finances and the weeks leading up to the announcement that the team would be cut, Chief Investigator Jamie Ostroff spoke with Annabel Robertson, IRSC’s interim public information officer.

The interview had initially been scheduled with Athletic Director Scott Kimmelman, but through Robertson, he declined the opportunity to answer questions.

Robertson said the decision to eliminate women’s basketball and months earlier, the e-sports team, followed difficult scrutiny of the school’s budget.


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“The reality is, is that Indian River State College is a very valuable part of the community in which we live. We are working very hard to make college available to everyone in our community," Robertson said. “In our Florida college system, we've had reduction and elimination of athletics, as the economics of running a state college become tighter and tighter."

An annual report on athletic equity at IRSC shows the women's basketball program was 19% more expensive than the men’s program in 2023.

"The women's schedule had greater traveling, that was really the driver," Robertson said. "Therefore, the more of the expenses on buses, hotels, meals on the road."

But those additional expenses were not necessarily the deciding factor that led to the elimination of the women's team, Robertson explained.

Annabel Robertson IRSC interim public information officer 04032024.png
Indian River State College interim public information officer Annabel Robertson explains the future of athletics at the college.

"The particular metric put into place by the athletic department included GPA, retention, graduation rate, budget, and fundraising," she said.

Athletics at IRSC are funded by student activity fees. At the end of the last fiscal year, that fee was more than $62,000 in the red, according to a financial report provided by the college.

Robertson said this was part of a long-running issue, and that IRSC had been dipping into the auxiliary fund to cover the deficit in athletics and student activities. She said administrators decided it was more fiscally responsible to allocate those much-needed auxiliary funds to issues and operations of higher priority than athletics.

To right the ship financially, Robertson said the IRSC Promise Program, now in its third year, has helped.

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The program offers tuition-free associate’s degrees to local students. The tuition is subsidized by state funding, Pell grants, and charitable donations, Robertson said. Students are still responsible for fees not related to tuition.

"That has allowed us to have an 11% increase in enrollment. We're one of only two colleges in the state with an increase in enrollment," Robertson said.

Robertson said the school would reconsider reinstating the women’s basketball program in the future, if financial circumstances permit.

“We do believe that mind, body, wellness are all an important part of a student's journey," she said.

According to Robertson, the women's basketball players who depend on athletic scholarships to attend school will be offered academic scholarships if they choose to return to IRSC in the fall.

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