BIG RAPIDS -- Although participation in high school sports improved at Michigan High School Athletic Association schools during the 2021-22 school year, the percentage of member schools charging participation fees remained near its lowest of the last two decades after a major reduction during 2020-21 when fall and winter activities were affected by COVID-19. That\u2019s the word from the MHSAA which said only 40 percent of MHSAA member schools charged participation fees during the 2021-22 school year, following 41 percent using them during 2020-21 \u2013 after 48 percent of member schools reported charging them during the 2019-20 school year, when athletics operated normally until the pandemic resulted in a shutdown that March. The dips into the low 40s were the lowest percentages of schools assessing fees since the 2006-07 school year. \u201cThe MHSAA participation fee survey has measured the prevalence of charging students to help fund interscholastic athletics annually since the 2003-04 school year,\u201d the MHSAA said in a press release. \u201cThe percentage of member schools charging fees crossed 50 percent in 2010-11 and reached a high of 56.6 percent in 2013-14 before falling back to 50 percent or below during recent years.\u201d The MHSAA said of the 690 schools (92 percent of membership) which responded to the 2021-22 survey, 279 assessed a participation fee, while 411 did not during the past school year. The survey defined a participation fee as anything $20 or more regardless of what the school called the charge (registration fee, insurance fee, transportation fee, etc.). Locally, the use of participation fees has varied. Athletic directors Terry Martin, of Pine River and JJ Eads, of Baldwin, said their schools currently don\u2019t have participation fees. Jay Wallace, who recently retired as Evart athletic director, said Evart had fees until the pandemic hit and hasn\u2019t had them since. At Reed City, athletic director Ryan Hansen said the school did not this past year and for the upcoming year does not have pay to participate. \u201cOur goal at Reed City is to create as many opportunities as possible for our children,\u201d Hansen said. \u201cAthletics are already financially stressful for many families without participation fees. By charging a fee, we are indirectly discouraging our children from getting involved in athletics.\u201d \u201cAmong schools assessing fees, a standardized fee for each team on which a student-athlete participates \u2013 regardless of the number of teams \u2013 has shown for a number of years to be the most popular method, with that rate at 46 percent of schools with fees for 2021-22,\u201d the MHSAA said. \u201cNext were 32 percent of assessing schools charging a one-time standardized fee per student-athlete, followed by 14 percent assessing fees based on tiers of the number of sports a student-athlete plays (for example, charging a larger fee for the first team and less for additional sports). \u201cThe amounts of participation fees have remained relatively consistent over the last decade. For 2021-22, the median annual maximum fee per student was $150, and the median maximum fee per family was $300. The median fee assessed by schools that charge student-athletes once per year was $120, and the median fee for schools that assess per team on which a student-athlete plays was $75.\u201d The MHSAA also contributed to this report.