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SDSU female student-athletes sue school over inequitable financial aid

SDSU female athletes filed the first class action lawsuit of its kind against the university, claiming it violated federal law on gender equality in education. KPBS Kitty Alvarado spoke with one of the student athletes suing the school and their attorney and has more on the case.

A group of female student-athletes filed a sex discrimination class action lawsuit Monday against San Diego State University that alleges the school has deprived female athletes of equal athletic financial aid in violation of Title IX.

The complaint filed in San Diego federal court alleges SDSU has not paid female varsity-student athletes equal financial aid in more than a decade and illegally denied female athletes more than $1.2 million in aid over the last two academic years.

The suit, which attorneys say is the first Title IX athletic financial aid damages case in the country, alleges that, per Title IX, schools must grant athletic financial aid in amounts proportional to male and female athletic participation rates.


When 57.22% of SDSU student-athletes were female in the 2020-21 year, the suit alleges they should have received 57.22% of the athletic financial aid awarded, but actually received 50.64%. The suit alleges this amounted to SDSU's 305 female varsity-student athletes getting more than $570,000 less than they should have.

Plaintiffs include former women's varsity rowing team member Madison Fisk, along with 16 past and current SDSU student-athletes.

"It is a sad day for the entire SDSU community that we have to sue the university to make it comply with Title IX and provide athletic financial aid equally to women and men," Fisk said. "Title IX has been the law for 50 years now and SDSU still isn't providing its female athletes with equal scholarship support. It's time for that to change."

Students return to the San Diego State University campus for the first day of in-person learning during the Spring 2022 semester.
Bennett Lacy
Students return to the San Diego State University campus for the first day of in-person learning during the Spring 2022 semester.

Arthur H. Bryant, lead counsel for the women, said, "The reports (SDSU) has filed with the federal government show that, since at least 2010, SDSU has been cheating its women athletes out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in equal athletic financial aid each year. This is illegal sex discrimination, plain and simple. It has to stop."

In a statement, San Diego State University said, "SDSU affirms its strong, long-standing commitment to supporting, training and providing competitive financial support to its female student-athletes. We have offered female student-athletes a choice of many and varied options in which to compete and be competitive — this is a hallmark of SDSU's athletics programming."


The school's statement also said it "awards approximately 95% of all possible scholarships permitted under NCAA rules for both its men's and women's teams, with the remaining fraction explained by legitimate reasons within SDSU coaches' discretion. NCAA rules prohibit all schools, including SDSU, from giving unlimited athletic scholarships. To exceed these limits would make student-athletes ineligible to compete. ...

"We are disappointed with the incomplete picture presented by the plaintiffs' lawyers about the support for and successes of SDSU's female student-athletes. We have and will continue to put our students first. There are always opportunities to make additional improvements, and we will continue to prioritize equity, access and the full SDSU student-athlete experience."