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OPINION: Has the Student Union gone overboard with their prices?

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Carmen Valencia | The Daily Wildcat

A view of the Student Union on Jan 18. University employees making less than minimum wage will not see an increase in wages until July.

Almost nobody on a college campus is blind to the fact that it’s expensive to be here — with bills for tuition, housing and textbooks stacking up, it’s impossible to ignore. What most people don’t expect is to walk into the Student Union Memorial Center — the hub of life on campus — and find themselves confronted with a package of Oreos costing $8.29. Students on campus quickly find that to meet even their most basic needs, they have to submit to absurd markups in price on a day-to-day basis. 

Many students don’t have a car, leaving them with little to no options besides spending money on food, drinks and other on-campus foods in stores like the University of Arizona's Arizona Market. Compared to store prices, these items are often heavily raised in cost. The market sells Kraft Mac & Cheese for $3.19, whereas it costs $0.98 at Walmart. When comparing the prices between the Arizona Market and a grocery store like Walmart, you can quickly see how difficult it can be for students to pay the expenses of SUMC food items. 

These high prices can also harm low-income and marginalized students who are more likely to be impacted by food insecurity. Although we have exceptional programs like the Campus Pantry, the high food costs still contribute to how students are impacted by food insecurity, as many students wonder where their next meal will come from. 

High food prices aren’t the only extraneous costs that students regularly face, as the advertising within the Student Union also affects student organizations that are simply trying to get more students involved in on-campus groups. Digital ad platforms on campus, which allow student organizations to advertise their upcoming events at the Student Union, can run as high as $1,400 for one week. The $1,400 only covers a week's worth of advertising for two digital totems and it costs extra for a digital showcase. 

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These ad platforms can benefit recognized student groups greatly, as they can be seen by hundreds of students that walk through the SUMC. However, since they are so expensive, student groups may have a hard time paying for these advertisements in the first place. After working so hard to be here, recognized student organizations deserve better than to be extorted for cash at every turn. 

Graduate student Stephen Westby has been with the UA for six years and said, “With as much money this institution brings in, I don’t think student groups should have to pay. It just doesn’t make sense to me.” 

There is no doubt that the university has fees to pay, but it is often granted special exceptions (government support and tax exemptions). Students and recognized student groups on campus shouldn’t have to pay extra simply to eat or advertise their clubs. 

“I wish that this institution was more focused on students instead of making money at every possible turn that they can,” Westby said. 

Westby brought up a great point. Why do professionals in charge of the education of students who are transitioning into adulthood exploit them for financial profit? Not every student is lucky enough to afford the prices of SUMC food and not every student organization has enough to pay for advertising to let other students know about their club. Making students and student organizations pay extra sends an immoral message — that it is okay to capitalize on students and student organizations to make an extra buck.


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Sophia is a freshman majoring in family studies & human development and global studies. She loves to write on pieces concerning politics that affect the Tucson and UA community.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (12/4)
744 14 1.9%
Total (8/2)
64,794 1,040 1.6%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated December 5, 2021