ASA was started in 1974 when the students across the state worked to have student representation on the Arizona Board of Regents. The political atmosphere in 1974 was challenging for students with the Vietnam war ending, Watergate underway, and university administrators and regents who did not embrace the concept of student activism and input. The student body presidents of Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University, and the University of Arizona recognized the barriers facing students in the state and together created the Arizona Students’ Association in order to pool their resources and accomplish more for students. They knew that there is strength in speaking with one voice in order to make a difference on the issues that are important to students.
ASA initially was funded by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) since student governments were not able to use their money for advocacy purposes. ASA was funded this way until 1998. ASA knew that it needed to be independent from all outside influences and ran student referenda on each campus to get a $1 mandatory refundable fee that students would pay each semester. This was passed overwhelmingly by both undergraduate and graduates on each on campus. In 2008, ASA once again ran referenda on each of the campuses to increase its resources so that ASA could be an even stronger student voice at the universities, in the Arizona Legislature, and in the state. The referenda once again passed overwhelmingly on all of the campuses by both undergraduates and graduates who have seen the value in having a strong statewide student voice.