Regents hear from student leaders on tuition freeze

UNI student government president says his peers don't support freeze

IOWA CITY -- State regents Thursday heard mixed support from student leaders for a proposed tuition freeze next year for resident undergraduates at Iowa's three public universities.

Student government leaders at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa said they support the planned freeze for 2013-14. But Jordan Bancroft-Smithe, University of Northern Iowa student government president, said student leaders there do not support a freeze, because they fear it may negatively impact UNI since it relies so heavily on in-state students. About 85 percent of UNI's tuition revenues come from in-state undergraduates, officials said.

"Many of the students ... saw the potential future damages and uncertainties as not worth the momentary reprieve," Bancroft-Smithe said.

Several regents said they understand and share those concerns about how a freeze might affect UNI financially, since it has more than 90 percent in-state enrollment and saw a large enrollment decline this year. The plan to freeze tuition next year is contingent on the state increasing funding by 2.6 percent for the universities next year, and on the state allocating an extra $4 million to UNI for budget challenges, the regents stressed.

If those steps aren't met in the coming Legislative session, the board will revisit the tuition plan, regents said.

"I think very clearly we view it as a package," board President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter of Alden said.

The UI, ISU and UNI presidents all said they support the tuition freeze. The board only discussed tuition Thursday; the tuition and fees vote is expected in December.

About 10 UI graduate students silently held protest signs at the back of the room during the meeting, stating concerns about the proposed increase to graduate and professional student tuition.

Jared Knight, ISU Government of the Student Body president, said graduate and professional students "feel targeted" by larger increases, the majority of those increases coming in the form of fees, he said.

Michael Appel, president of the UI Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, said the regents need to "think critically" about graduate education and affordability in the coming years.

Tuition and fees combined would increase from .5 percent to 2.7 percent for resident and nonresident graduate students at the universities next year under the plan. But some program-specific fees would increase at a higher rate, such as the thesis fee for master's and doctoral candidates, proposed to increase by $45, or 45 percent, Knight said.

ISU President Steve Leath said more than half of the university's doctoral students receive full-tuition scholarships and about one-third of master's students get half-tuition scholarships. He also noted many graduate students are paid through assistantships while they attend school, and he felt the impact of increased fees would be minimal.

Resident undergraduate tuition would remain unchanged under the plan: $6,678 at the UI and $6,648 at ISU and UNI. ISU proposes no increase to mandatory fees for undergraduates, while the UI proposes a $4 increase to fees and UNI proposes a $50 increase, a portion of which would go to replace general education money to the athletics department.

UI and UNI officials seek a 2.6 percent tuition increase for out-of-state undergraduates, while ISU proposes a 2.35 percent tuition increase for nonresidents.

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