IOWA CITY — Although University of Iowa resident undergraduates will be paying less in tuition this spring than their counterparts at Iowa State and University of Northern Iowa, UI could be the only school to see a rate hike next fall, according to a Board of Regents proposal made public Tuesday.
The board at its meeting next week will consider a proposal to increase tuition for UI resident undergraduates by 3 percent for the 2016-2017 academic year. That would shake out to a $200 increase on the year, according to board documents.
The increase would pull UI in line with Iowa State University and UNI, both of which will see a 3 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduates in the upcoming spring semester. Regents had proposed the midyear increase — equal to $100 for the spring semester — at all three public universities, but they agreed not to raise UI tuition midyear after UI Student Government President Elizabeth Mills argued against it during the board’s September meeting.
“Each regent institution has specific needs,” Mills told the board at the time. “The students I’ve talked to at the university do not want an increase, especially midyear due to financial planning.”
UNI and Iowa State student leaders, meanwhile, supported the midyear increase, saying their institutions needed the extra revenue to support growth at ISU and the high percent of resident students at UNI.
Holding UI tuition steady this spring, while increasing rates at Iowa State and UNI, will create the largest tuition differential among regent institutions in history. UI resident undergraduates will pay $3,339 while those at ISU and UNI will pay $3,424.
The proposed increase for next fall will bump UI up to an annual tuition rate of $6,878 for resident undergraduates and hold ISU and UNI annual rates at $6,848. The $30 difference dates back to 2007, when the board adopted a new policy giving universities the flexibility to recommend different rates.
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From 1991 to 2007, resident undergraduate tuition synced at the three institutions. Before 1991, tuition varied slightly among the three from year to year.
Although the board next week will consider the tuition proposal, it will not take formal action until its December meeting.
The 2016 increases are the first since the 2012-2013 school year — ending the longest sustained tuition freeze in Iowa’s regent university history.
Board officials, in documents made public Tuesday, reported the average annual tuition increase from 2010 to 2015 was 6 percent, below the national average of 17 percent. Meanwhile, state support for the public institutions has been dwindling, and tuition now comprises more than 61 percent of the combined operating budgets of the regent universities.
The board in September agreed to ask lawmakers for a 4 percent increase in general university operating support, and all tuition rate decisions depend on Legislative funding.
Regents President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland during the board’s September meeting expressed concern about mixed messages coming from UI — the administration has pushed for more state support while student body president Mills said UI “does not have the same needs” as the other institutions.
“I am troubled by the disconnect between what the students perceive and what the university administration, faculty, and staff are telling us,” Mulholland said at the time. “I do think that we, as a board, have to figure out where the disconnect is when the student representative comes and says that it’s not needed, and we hear yet from the institution that it is.”
Mulholland on Tuesday told The Gazette she supports the proposal to increase resident undergraduate rates at UI in fall 2016 and not at ISU and UNI “with the intended outcome that the 16-17 tuitions at all three universities represent like increases.”
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And, even though UI resident undergraduates could see a bigger increase than at ISU and UNI next fall, the board proposal recommends a smaller tuition increase for UI non-residents and graduate and professional students than the other schools.
According to board documents, if approved, base tuition for UI non-resident undergraduates and all graduate and professional students would increase 1.9 percent for the 2016-17 school year while rates at ISU and UNI would increase 3 percent.
UI non-resident tuition would remain the highest among the schools — at $26,966 compared with $20,362 at ISU and 17,340 at UNI. But the proposed increases with lessen the gap.
Undergraduate tuition revenue accounts for:
• 76 percent of total tuition revenue at UI
• 84 percent of total tuition revenue at ISU
• 92 percent of total tuition revenue at UNI
Resident tuition accounts for:
• 36 percent of total tuition revenue at UI
• 38 percent of total tuition revenue at ISU
• 81 percent of total tuition revenue at UNI
Iowa State, according to the board proposal, also is seeking a three-year $500 annual tuition increase for international students that would be assessed both for current and new students defined as noncitizens or non-permanent residents.
Iowa State has seen significant growth — 18 percent — among its international population since 2011, according to the board office.
“Up to now, the added costs to educate international students have been funded in the aggregate by all students,” board documents state.