ASA fee suspension to cut $300K
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Dennis DeConcini, secretary of the Arizona Board of Regents, speaks during a meeting on Nov. 26.
TEMPE, Ariz. — A state lobbying group that works to lower tutition costs will lose half its yearly budget after the Arizona Board of Regents voted to suspend a $2 fee students pay each semester to support the organization.
At a special meeting Monday, the board voted to suspend the collection of the fee until it makes a permanent policy decision either in February or during a later meeting. The suspension of the fee will result in a loss of about $300,000 for the Arizona Students’ Association for the spring semester.
ASA “works to make sure that higher education in Arizona is affordable and accessible by advocating to elected officials and running issue campaigns to engage students.” In 2008, the organization ran a student referenda, which was passed overwhelmingly by both undergraduate and graduate students in favor of paying the $2 fee, according to ASA’s website.
Regents discussed different possibilities for the $2 per-student, per-semester fee collected by ASA, which recently came under fire for allegations of misspending student fee money. Some of the suggestions were to make it easier to opt out of the fee or establishing an opt-in fee, while others called on regents to make a decision after greater consideration.
Regent Mark Killian suggested ways for students to be more aware of the possibility of opting out of the fee, potentially by notifying them when they pay their tuition. It could be as simple as asking students to check a box to decide whether or not to pay the fee, he said.
“To me, the issue is really simple and that is if a student has a right at the point of paying the fee and they see the language that says, ‘You don’t have to pay the fee, you can opt out,‘ that solves everybody’s problem,” Killian said.
Regent Dennis DeConcini proposed that the policy be kept off the December meeting agenda and that, in the interim, the board direct the universities to suspend collection of the ASA fee until the board makes a final policy decision.
“It gives time for this to attempt to find a resolution and there’s nothing wrong in being fair here and giving ample time,” DeConcini said. “It seems only fair and equitable that we have some time before we make this major judgment.”
Student regent Kaitlin Thompson stressed that if the decision were put off, the regents should set a firm deadline. Thompson added that education about ASA proposals and the fee is important, but that a clear deciding date is necessary.
Regents passed the motion to postpone, with two dissenting votes, and Chairman Rick Myers emphasized the need for permanent action.
Following the meeting, some student leaders opposing the organization fee said they were satisfied with the temporary suspension of the fee.
“I think the fact that they removed the fee for the time being makes me happy with the decision because, as of next semester, they won’t be collecting the fee,” said Mark Naufel, president of the undergraduate student government on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. “I don’t think they [the regents] felt like there had been enough time, so I think giving more will allow us to give more input and for them to make it a more fair process.”
Naufel, a former ASA treasurer, resigned more than a month ago with three fellow ASA board members from ASU, citing a disagreement with the way the organization was spending the student fee money.
Following their resignations, the ASU student Senate released the results of an investigation on ASA, which was presented to the regents. The board will continue to consider proposals from directors and student leaders regarding the organization up until their meeting in February, or if the final decision is made at a later date.
Dylan Duniho, ASA vice chair of internal affairs and a creative writing junior at the UA, said the goal of ASA members will be to continue to reach out to the regents to set up meetings and stay in communication with them.
“I think ultimately it’s on us as ASA to present the regents with tangible solutions and proposals that make sense for both parties, like what the regents would like to see and what students want,” Duniho said. “This decision by the regents gives us, as ASA, a little bit more time to solidify our proposals and present with them real changes we can make.”
Jordan King, Arizona Students’ Association vice chairman of the board of directors and chairman of internal affairs from the UA, said that although suspending the fee might not be the best choice for the organization, there is money saved up in the reserves to help keep ASA running.
“As of right now we have enough money in our reserves to function as an organization for this next semester,” King said. “We have enough money to operate and do everything we normally do, but moving forward now we’ll have more responsibility to really reach out to the regents, have meetings with them and actively work on changes.”