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Regents temporarily halt student fee

The Arizona Board of Regents decided Monday not to levy a fee against university students next semester to fund a politically active non-profit group.

The board put off deciding whether to abolish the $2 per-student fee permanently until one of its 2013 meetings.

The fee, which was approved and increased in student referendums on all three university campuses over the years, pays for the Arizona Students Association.  The group describes its activities as lobbying  at the Legislature and running grassroots campaigns to make education more affordable.  Board policy allows the student group to collect the fee, which generates roughly $540,000 a year, through the board.

The student group came under scrutiny when it contributed $126,806 towards the passage of Proposition 204, a failed ballot measure that proposed the permanent extension of a 2010, voter approved 1-cent sales tax. The Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, a conservative advocacy group, has questioned the legality of the contribution.

Individual regents have questioned whether it is appropriate for the board, which oversees the state’s three universities, to collect a fee for an organization that is independent from the university system.

Student leaders from the three universities formed the student association in 1974. The board of regents in 1977 adopted a policy on the association’s structure and financing.

The organization was funded with a flat $35,000 taken from student fees until 1997, when students from all three universities overwhelmingly passed a campus referendum establishing a $1 fee per student per semester.

A 2008 campus referendum also passed, increasing the fee to $2. Students can opt out of the fee, but they must submit a request for the refund by the 21st day of class.

 

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