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ASU student leaders propose fee to help fund athletic programs

TEMPE, Ariz. -- While Arizona State University has announced that tuition won't increase next year, the Tempe campus' student government is discussing a mandatory fee that would help fund athletic programs.

Jordan Davis, the student body president, said students' tuition already is used to bridge the deficit - around $10 million - between athletic revenues and the cost of maintaining all of the university's sports teams.

"This just gives us a way to control how we pay for it and what we get out of our money," Davis said.

The student fee would subsidize money-losing athletic programs, such as volleyball, baseball and softball, he said.

While the amount hasn't been set, $150 a year is the number currently being tossed around, Davis added.

"A $150 fee is a lot less than a 3 percent tuition increase like we had last year," he said. "I think students will get a lot more than $150 worth of services for the $150 fee."

ASU's student government is looking into the possibility of giving students free tickets to football and basketball games if the fee takes effect, Davis said. Student section seats for football and basketball currently cost $149 a year.

The university requires about $60 million annually to run its athletic programs and receives about $50 million in revenue, Davis said.

Calls to ASU's media relations office weren't returned by late Thursday afternoon.

The fee would require approval from the ASU Undergraduate Student Government Senate, the ASU administration and the Arizona Board of Regents.

Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, that while the fee wouldn't qualify as a tuition increase it would require students to pay more to attend college.

"Whether there's a tuition increase, a fee increase or some other increase, at the end of the day what is going to matter most to the majority of students is what they're shelling out of their pockets," Brown said.

Sara Leeth, an undergraduate majoring in anthropology, said she'd feel better about paying a fee that went toward classrooms and maintenance than toward sports.

"I think it would be ridiculous," she said. "It's already hard enough to pay for everything."

Matthew Meyer, a junior who just transferred to ASU, said he'd rather put the money toward two weeks' worth of groceries.

"Maybe it's not directed toward tuition or classes, but it's still what I have to pay to come here or be here as an ASU student," Meyer said. "It's just adding on top of all the bills we already have."

State universities receive subsidies from the Arizona Board of Regents for athletic scholarships, but the University of Arizona's athletic teams don't receive money from tuition dollars, said John Perrin, UA senior associate director of athletics. He said revenues and donations cover costs.

Tuition dollars at Northern Arizona University are spread across various departments, including athletics, and a separate fee has never been proposed, said NAU spokesman Tom Bauer.

Davis said student forums on the fee proposal will be held on all four ASU campuses within the next few weeks.

He said making the change would allow ASU to reinvest tuition dollars that used to go toward athletics into academics.

"If I didn't think this fee was in their best interest, I would not support it at all," Davis said. "I hope that students understand that."

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