ASUA senators are considering adding a general student fee to the ballot next semester after hearing different campus groups propose various fees.
The UA Adaptive Athletics program approached the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate at a meeting last month to propose a fee for all students to help the program continue.
ASUA Senator Erin Hertzog said different departments around campus, such as the library and the Student Recreation Center, have also requested charging fees to all students in the past.
Hertzog said another idea being developed by ASUA and the University Activities Board is charging students one large amount, such as $50, and allocating those funds to the different groups around campus.
The Adaptive Athletics Program operates six sports teams for disabled students, including wheelchair basketball and rugby, several of which are nationally ranked. The fee, which would be about 75 cents per UA student each semester, would be used to help the teams with equipment, travel and maintaining their facilities.
The overall operations budget of the six Adaptive Athletics teams is about $150,000 to $200,000 per year, said David Herr-Cardillo, assistant director of the Disability Resource Center. The program is seeking a base amount of about $40,000 to $50,000 that can be counted on each year, he said.
Last year, students voted down a $30 activity fee proposed by ASUA to bring famous speakers and musicians to campus. The measure was put to vote only a few days after the referendum was approved by the ASUA Senate, which left little time for fee supporters to advertise it. Many students and clubs said the election came too soon and the reasons behind it were vague.
Some ASUA senators expressed concern that the Adaptive Athletics fee would be charged to all students, even though not everyone is eligible to participate in the program. ASUA Sen. Stephanie Hartz proposed increasing the price of Zona Zoo passes and giving the extra money to Adaptive Athletics.
Hertzog said the fee request is "complicated because we want to help the students and this program at the same time."
With increases in tuition over the past several years and the rising costs of books and on-campus housing, senators said many students are reluctant to pay fees to other programs.
"People are so sick of hearing about fees and money increases," said Hertzog. "It's something you have to go about in a careful way."
Herr-Cardillo said the program would need to continue to work to acquire additional funding, but said, "Without financial support, it won't run forever."
Herr-Cardillo said the Adaptive Athletics program and other programs for disabled students are important to the entire university because of "the cultural diversity it brings to the campus."
"I know there's a real value to every student and staff on this campus to work with students with disabilities for who they are and the obstacles they've overcome," Herr-Cardillo said.
Adaptive Athletics now receives the majority of its funding from private sponsors, Hertzog said.
UA's Adaptive Athletics program is known nationwide. Teams compete against colleges across the country. Program participants have gone on to win gold, silver and bronze at the Paralympics, an Olympics-like international competition for disabled athletes.
The women's wheelchair basketball team has only been in existence for four years, but this year, it is one of the top five teams in the nation, Herr-Cardillo said.
The men's wheelchair basketball team is ranked fifth in the intercollegiate division of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
"They're so good, but they're not going to keep winning championships without funding," Hertzog said.
Undeclared freshman Jamie Heckerman said the adaptive athletics program has helped her fit in on campus.
"It's something that helps us have a normal life," she said.
- Jennifer Amsler contributed to this report.