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University of Arizona to implement student fee for athletics in 2017-18 academic year

Starting in the fall, UA students will be charged $100 per year to support athletic programs

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UCLA v Arizona Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The University of Arizona is one of two public Pac-12 schools to not have a student fee for athletics, but that will change at the start of the 2017-18 academic year.

The Arizona Board of Regents voted to approve the UA’s implementation of a new student fee last Thursday, which now leaves Washington as the only Pac-12 school without one.

The details of the fee were released by Arizona Wildcats athletic director Dave Heeke in this week’s Wildcat Wednesday:

The fee, which will go into effect for the 2017-18 academic year, is intended to support athletics programs, facilities and the improvement of the student and fan experience at our venues. During the four-year phase-in period, which includes only incoming graduate and undergraduate students, the fee is expected to produce approximately $800,000 in the first year, $1.6 million in the second, $2.4 million in the third, and then $3.2 million per year moving forward.

The expected revenue produced by the student fee, along with a generous, private $5 million donation, will make it possible for athletics to borrow approximately $75 million to get started on some, but not all, of our various infrastructure projects. Once we’ve finalized the list of projects to be addressed initially, we’ll share that information publicly, but those details are still being determined.

The fee is $100 per year for incoming undergraduate students, while returning undergraduate students will not be subject to the fee. Incoming undergraduate students, who will pay the fee, will receive free admission to all ticketed sporting events other than football and men’s basketball. They, along with returning undergraduate students, will need to purchase the appropriate ZonaZoo membership for access to football and men’s basketball games.

Incoming graduate students will have the choice to pay a $50 yearly fee as they can opt out. Incoming graduate students that choose to pay the fee will receive free admission to all sporting events other than men’s basketball. They will need to purchase a new, graduate-student-only ZonaZoo ‘White’ pass in order to have access to men’s basketball games. Returning graduate students who opt out of the fee will need to purchase the appropriate ZonaZoo membership for access to ticketed sporting events.

While tacking on mandatory fees is never a preferred option, especially when tuition rates are already so high, the increased funding will undoubtedly help Arizona Athletics improve their competitive advantage.

It is worth noting that ASU implemented a $75 student fee in the 2014-2015 fiscal year and it helped the school generate a record $84 million in revenue. $10 million of that was produced by the student fee.

UA’s student fee will be $100, which is actually considerably less than it was initially proposed to be, according to the Daily Wildcat

“It was originally proposed around $300, which was absolute insanity,” Michael Finnegan, the ASUA president, told the Daily Wildcat. “We were able to talk it down to $100.”

The revenue from the student fee could accelerate things like Rich Rodriguez’s desire for an indoor practice facility, as well as Mike Candrea’s desire to start phase two of the Hillenbrand Stadium project.

Candrea has said Hillenbrand Stadium needs a “facelift” and mentioned in October that he would like a new press box, a “couple suites on both sides of that”, a patio, and then a new shade structure, new seating, and new dugouts.

“That place will look like it’s brand new,” he said. “I’ve got the pictures. ... I know what I want it to look like.”

It will also be interesting to see if the new student fee affects attendance at non-revenue sports, seeing that all students will now have “free” admission, rather than those who purchased ZonaZoo passes as it was in past (of course, ticket sales will take a small hit).

As a whole, if you’re a fan of Arizona Athletics and a student at the UA, the student fee seems reasonable. It’s the people that go to UA and don’t care about UA’s sports teams that are burned the most by it.

But in today’s day and age, the additional revenue the fee will create for UA is needed for it to keep up with Power-5 schools.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire