Education

Regents approve tuition increases following 'attack' on universities

'Iowans need to understand that this is probably the low side of tuition in the future'

A Board of Regents meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Wednesday, Sep. 6, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A Board of Regents meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Wednesday, Sep. 6, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — Costs are going up this fall for all students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa in the wake of what one member of the Board of Regents described Thursday as “the worst state government attack on our three public universities that I can ever remember.”

The board, meeting at UNI, unanimously approved tuition increases in response to legislative cuts in general education appropriations since the start of the 2017 budget year totaling more than $40 million — a slide only recently slowed by an $8.3 million bump for the new budget year.

The campuses have absorbed two consecutive rounds of midyear cuts by freezing pay, further delaying maintenance, eliminating some scholarship programs and imposing construction moratorium on the UI campus — in addition to raising tuition.

At the least expensive rate — for Iowa residents attending the universities this fall — tuition will go up 3.8 percent at the UI and ISU and 2.8 percent at UNI.

The increase equates to $284 more for UI and ISU resident undergrads and $209 for those students at UNI — totaling annual base tuition rates of $7,770 at the UI, $7,740 at ISU and $7,665 at UNI.

Adding in mandatory fees, along with room and board costs — also going up — the average estimated cost of attending a state school for a resident undergraduate next academic year is about $21,369 — $533 more than this year.

Many students will be paying much more.

In recent years, regents have supported differential tuition models that charge students more for enrolling in costlier programs.

Neither the UI nor UNI differential tuition models face a significant rethinking under the newly-approved rates — although tuition will increase for those differentiated programs, which include business, engineering, medicine and nursing.

But Thursday’s approval gave ISU the go-ahead to expand its differential tuition program and capture more students in it.

Max Freund / The Gazette

Under the new model, the portion of undergraduates paying higher rates will grow from 34 percent in fall 2017 to 56 percent this fall. The portion of graduate students paying higher rates will reach 74 percent, up from 45.

The impact, for some, amounts to an increase as high as nearly 14 percent. ISU additionally is enacting a $542 increase for all international students — the final installment of a total $1,556 increase for those students over three years.

Tuition increases across the campuses amount to a total bump in revenue for the upcoming budget year of about $24.9 million.

Regent Larry McKibben said if state support continues to decline, this year’s tuition increases will pale in comparison with those coming.

“Iowans need to understand that this is probably the low side of tuition in the future, in the next years to come, if we do not get any more governance support from the state of Iowa,” he said.

He urged voters to give the issue priority.

“I look forward to hearing the candidates say that,” McKibben said. “What are you going to do about higher education and our three great universities? And what are you going to do to bring them back to level?”

They are not level now, he said, and that is driving faculty to other universities in other states. After declining to mandate pay raises in the last budget year, ISU saw its highest faculty resignation total in a decade — 44, up from 24 the previous year.

The UI recently announced it’s freezing pay for most until at least January after it can assess student enrollment, tuition revenue and state revenue forecasts.

“We have lost great folks, and now we are going to have to raise tuition,” McKibben said, noting that will persist “as long as we continue what I believe is, in my time on the board, the worst state government attack on our three public universities that I can ever remember.”

Regents said the new $8.3 million bump in funding will go toward student financial aid.

Board President Mike Richards has said regents will be mapping out a five-year plan for tuition rates, giving students and their families more room to plan.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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