A handful of Northern Arizona University students spoke in favor of a $75 per semester athletics fee proposed by university administrators at a public hearing with the Arizona Board of Regents on Tuesday.
This would be the first time that NAU has charged a dedicated athletics fee to all students. The University of Arizona charges its students a $50 per semester athletics fee and Arizona State University $75.
The fee would have to be approved by ABOR at its April 5 meeting, which will be live-streamed on the internet on ABOR’s website. Public comments on the tuition schedule will not be taken.
According to a February Arizona Daily Sun interview with NAU Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Marlow, the fee would generate around $3.1 million annually for the university’s athletics and increase the annual Athletics Department budget by nearly 17 percent. A student activity fee of $48 per semester currently covers the cost of free sports tickets for students, along with student legal aid, funding for student organizations, campus speakers and other activities.
At least three of the students who spoke in favor of the new fee work as interns or graduate assistants at NAU’s Athletics Communications department.
Working in public relations for the Athletic Department has helped her reach some of her career goals, said graduate assistant Cheyenne Mumphrey. Adding the $150 a year fee would allow the department to invest in new facilities and support internships and graduate assistantships at the department that help NAU students get the experience they need to get a job after they graduate.
Northern Arizona University Student Body President Lauren L’Ecuyer said that NAU’s student council, the Associated Students of Northern Arizona University, had voted 10 to 1 in favor of the fee. She said ASNAU had an open line of communication with the Athletics Department and university administrators about the fee and its purpose.
NAU was recently dinged in an accreditation report from the Higher Learning Commission for poor communication between students, faculty, staff and administrators.
L’Ecuyer said as part of the agreement between ASNAU and the university, an advisory committee will be created to determine where the money from the fee would be spent. The fee would be capped at $150 a year until 2026 and NAU students would still get free admission to all athletic events until 2026.
Revenue from the fee could not be used for staff salaries, travel costs or scholarships, she said. Instead, the money would be used to improve current sports facilities and build additional ones as needed.
L’Ecuyer was so impressed with the communication between the university and ASNAU that the student council is recommending that advisory committees like the one for the athletics fee be created for any future fee proposals.
However, at student forums in February designed to collect comments about the fees, a number of students raised concerns about the total amount of fees they are paying in order to attend NAU. Fees to attend NAU’s Flagstaff campus for the 2017/2018 year are just over $1,000.
NAU President Rita Cheng also explained the fee and an increase in tuition for new students and those who are not part of the university’s pledge tuition program at the public hearing. She proposed a 3.5 percent increase in tuition for new undergraduate students next year at most of its campuses, except its Yavapai campus, where the tuition is expected to increase by about 5 percent.
Students who are part of the university’s Pledge program will not see a tuition increase. The Pledge program locks in the tuition rate for four years for entering freshmen, although only 40 percent graduate in four years.