Onward Debate: Should Gym Memberships Be Free?

In addition to Penn State beating you up with the second-highest in-state tuition in the country (the only thing it’s okay for Pitt to beat us in,) the school has traditionally charged students an extra fee to use the fitness facilities around campus. This year, a $110 charge for a full-year membership gives you access to all gyms, fitness classes, and pools across campus. It’s not cheap, but relative to a standard gym you may find at home, it’s a bargain.

But should students have to pay an extra fee just to step foot in a gym on campus? Our staff disagrees, so here’s our Onward Debate: Should gym memberships be free?

Yes, They Should Be — Noel Purcell

Penn State was recently ranked one of the 10 healthiest colleges in America. Around the same time that list was released, I dropped $110 for my gym membership for this year. Now, coming from spending the summer in Manhattan, where 24 Hour Fitness took more than that for three months, you’d think I wouldn’t be in a place to complain. But here I am.

The fact is, while $110 for about eight months of gym membership is a great price, it’s another example of Penn State squeezing every dollar it can out of students. To just about anyone on campus (save for the Lamborghini kid and that guy in your finance class with a trust fund), $110 is a lot of money. On top of tuition, housing, food, books, laptops, cell phone bills, car insurance, renter’s insurance, internet, cable, and the occasional pitcher of Café tea, asking extra money from a student to use an on-campus facility that most schools provide for free just isn’t fair.

There’s the argument to be made that if everyone had a membership, the lines would be longer. This is a valid point, but in the grand scheme of things, having a healthier and more active student body is surely a greater priority than making you wait 15 minutes to enter the White Building, no? It would fit in with Penn State’s dedication to fitness that is promoted in all the dining commons and exercise facilities. There’s another thing — the new IM building helps to even further disperse the population of gym-goers. If you want to go to the gym, you’ll probably buy a membership and go. If you don’t, you won’t. Having the gym be freely available might be motivation to more people to get off the couch and get in shape.

To run the facilities properly, the funding from the University on its own most likely isn’t enough, hence the membership fee. However, a dedication to funding memberships for all would be a positive PR move, improve student health, and increase facility utilization. If funds from tuition need to be re-allocated and there are proper reasons to do so, so be it. In the end, that may come down to needing more funding overall. Much of that could be decided this November, and if the citizens of the great state of Pennsylvania elected someone who supports Penn State and wants to increase our funding, this could become a reality. CAPS should be funded first, and gym memberships should be second.

No, They Shouldn’t Be — Mike Reisman

Yes, I am aware how unpopular this opinion is. No, I swear I’m not crazy. Yes, I do have a gym membership. Let me explain:

This school, as it is, is not cheap. Even compared to other state schools, the price still sucks. As an out-of-state student, I of all people should know this. But as much as paying for a gym membership on top of tuition sucks, it makes sense.

Let’s say, for example, I like to run. All I do is run. I do it outside too, so there’s really no need for me to have a gym membership. Why should I have an extra $110 added to my already expensive tuition for something I will never use? The same goes for students living off-campus that may belong to downtown gyms, or have a gym in their building. Why should they pay as part of their tuition for something they don’t use?

Either way, if you want to use a gym, you’re going to pay, whether it’s as part of your tuition, or as an additional fee. But even the way it currently is, you really don’t have to do much for a membership. When you sign up online it takes no more than five minutes, and you don’t even need to give payment information. It puts the fee right on your bursar bill, so you pay with your tuition.

Additionally, if every student had a gym membership, lines would be worse than they are already, filled with students who might not necessarily go to the gym but thought “It’s free, so why not?” While from a fitness perspective that may seem fine, and even beneficial, eventually it forces students who would have paid for a membership to either wait in longer lines, or just not go at all if the gym is full.

As much as paying an additional $110 for a full-year gym membership isn’t fun, it benefits everyone.

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