Regents vote to remove Arizona Students’ Association fee from tuition

The list of fees tacked onto next semester’s tuition bill will be one item shorter.

Students at ASU, NAU and UA will no longer have to pay a semesterly $2 fee to the Arizona Students’ Association, a nonprofit advocacy organization composed of students from each of the three state universities.

Following a Thursday vote by the Arizona Board of Regents, the fee, which was temporarily suspended this semester, will now permanently allow students to opt in for paying it.

The revision to ABOR Policy 5-201 underwent its second reading and final vote at the board meeting, held in the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.

The fee made up about $600,000 of the student association’s annual funding. It has been a point of contention for several undergraduate student officials at ASU, Board Chairman Rick Myers said.

“The students feel that ASA is no longer responsive,” he said.

All four Undergraduate Student Government presidents were in favor of the elimination of the fee from students’ bills.

They originally asked the board to re-evaluate the former policy, wherein the fee was automatically charged to students through the University billing system along with tuition and a list of other student fees.

 

USG Downtown president Joseph Grossman said that ASA was not benefiting its constituents to the best of its ability.

ASA representatives had not met with Rep. Jeff Dial, the higher education committee chair in the Arizona House of Representatives, as with Grossman’s meeting with ASA members on Jan. 21. He said this was a failure on the lobbying organization’s part.

Grossman said ASA’s use of ASU’s billing system to collect funds was inappropriate.

 

“I don’t believe any (nonprofit) organization should be able to use the University funding process to earmark funds for their organization,” he said.

The draft of the policy ABOR voted on Thursday was revised during a special meeting Jan. 23.

At the January meeting, members of the board voted against a proposal by Regent Dennis DeConcini that would have made the fee available to students in an opt-out format.

At a first reading of a new proposal by DeConcini, which instead proposed to make the fee an opt-in process for students, board members voted in favor of the revision 5-4.

Brendan Pantilione, a member of the ASA board of directors, said the opt-out proposal would have been the best-case scenario.

“Instead of spending time campaigning for students, now we have to do that and say, ‘Hey, give us money,’” she said.

Pantilione said she believes the change in ABOR policy resulted from ASA’s support of failed Proposition 204, which would have maintained a 1-cent sales tax intended to provide funding for state education.

The opt-in proposal for the ABOR policy, however, is, “better than being completely shut out,” Pantilione said, adding that the ASA will remain positive about the situation.

Student associations are not funded through mandatory fees placed on students’ bills in most other states, Myers said.

He said Arizona is relatively unique in this sense.

Prior to the meeting, Myers said the board would likely vote to stop collecting the ASA fees as it had previously done.

“It’s probably not appropriate,” he said.

The board also voted to support Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget proposal for the fiscal year 2014.

Her proposal recommends that $15.3 million be appropriated to ASU and NAU in a second injection of extra state funding that would bring the two universities closer to match per-student state funding at UA.

Brewer’s proposal also recommends expanding the performance-based higher education funding plan put in place for fiscal year 2013.

In 2013, the funding plan was applied to 1 percent of the universities’ portion of the state’s “General Fund.”

For 2014, Brewer said she would like to see the performance-based formula being applied to 10 percent of university funding.

Reach the reporter at svhabib@asu.edu or follow her @discoanddessert