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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

$20 student union fee proposed

JAKE LACEY / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Jake Lacey
JAKE LACEY / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona Student Unions are proposing to enact a one-time fee for UA undergraduates at the beginning of each semester in response to budget pressures.

Pending the referendum’s approval by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and the Graduate and Professional Student Council, UA students who vote in the general elections March 7 and March 8 will make the ultimate decision on whether undergrads will have to pay a $20 fee beginning next semester.

A combination of the Student Union’s debt, rising interest rates and the higher cost of employees’ wages and health care, has left the Student Unions scrambling to make up the deficit, said Dan Adams, Arizona Student Unions director.

“”Currently the unions operations are breaking even, but the dollars to keep services at a consistent level or to react to student requests for additional services are not available,”” Adams said.

The fee, if enacted, would generate more than $1 million in additional revenue.

“”I view the fee as a three-part solution,”” Adams said. “”It will provide the money to assure we can take care of what we have; a second part will be dedicated to expanding the services we provide, and finally, the new dollars will allow us to revitalize the quantity and quality of the campus activity programs for students.””

ASUA treasurer Kevin Barker said the proposed fee would be great for students who use the student unions on a regular basis, but bad for those who rarely or never do.

If the referendum doesn’t get approved for the ballot or if it is voted down during general elections, Barker said, “”they can take it out of your pocket another way.””

Alternate options, Adams said, are either a drastic increase in prices that would affect all of the Union’s operations or the implementation of a mandatory meal plan.

“”A fee will generate dollars that are immediately available at the beginning of each semester, whereas the meal plan will generate only about 10 to 15 cents on the dollar after food and labor expenses,”” Adams said.

Arizona Student Unions receives about $840,000 from the university out of a $21 million annual budget, Adams said, and the rest comes from dining and retail.

Stephanie Barnes, an optical engineering junior who frequents the student unions multiple times a week, said she would rather pay the one-time fee than pay extra on every purchase because a raise in prices on the consumer level could conceivably cost the average student much more than $20 a semester.

But some students who rarely eat at the student union or use its services said they would be reluctant to pay the fee.

“”I would not pay it – this building is like a mall,”” said Jaclyn Hartzler, a second-year law student.

Jessica Furrow, a senior majoring in English, said she “”would not be opposed to closing down some of the meeting rooms in favor of businesses. It would be appropriate.””

An online survey created by Arizona Student Unions and administered by ASUA shows strong student support in favor of the referendum.

“”Ninety-six percent of all students have used Student Unions’ facilities around campus this past year,”” Adams said. “”As an auxiliary on campus, the unions are expected to primarily be self-supporting. We have one of the finest student unions in the country, and our goal is to create programs and services that meet the needs of all segments of our student population. It will take financial resources beyond what we can currently generate to assure we can meet these goals.””

Due to broad student dissent, Adams said the university will probably never require a mandatory meal plan for all students who live on campus, like the unions at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University are proposing to the Board of Regents.

The mandatory meal plan solution for ASU and NAU campuses is awaiting final approval by the board. If it is enacted, it will take effect next academic year.

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