Regents raise tuition at ISU, UNI, not UI

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CEDAR FALLS — The Board of Regents agreed Wednesday to increase tuition for in-state undergraduates at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — but not at the University of Iowa.

Citing inadequate state funding, the board was on track to end a freeze on resident undergrad tuition at all three of Iowa’s public universities, voting on a proposal to increase it by 3 percent this spring.

The increase would have cost those students an extra $100 and raised about $3.5 million across all three universities.

Student representatives from ISU and UNI told regents they supported the increases because their institutions are desperate for resources. But the UI’s student representative said she opposes it.

“Each regent institution has specific needs,” said UI Student Government President Elizabeth Mills. “The students I’ve talked to at the university do not want an increase, especially midyear due to financial planning.”

Based on her comments, regents President Bruce Rastetter asked the board to consider raising the tuition at ISU and UNI but not the UI.

Before voting, though, regents asked Mills how much research she did. She said she talked with the university’s 50 student senators and got informal feedback from other students.

The board did not consult UI administrators before approving the exemption, with two regents opposed.

The increase was expected to generate $1.2 to $1.4 million for the UI. The change approved Wednesday will eliminate that revenue, but increase base tuition at ISU and UNI to $6,848. UI base tuition stays $6,678.

The board said it will reassess all tuition rates for the 2016-17 academic year in October.

The board also agreed Wednesday to amend an original plan asking for no new state money for the UI in fiscal 2017, instead requesting a $4.5 million increase.

Regents agreed to make that change on behalf of the UI while approving its larger operating appropriations requests for the 2017 budget year, totaling $656.8 million. That total includes requests for more money for ISU and UNI.

The regents are seeking a 4.5 percent increase in general fund appropriations for ISU, or $8.2 million, and an 8.1 percent increase for UNI, or $7.7 million.

The $4.5 million increase proposed for the UI would amount to about 1.9 percent above its current state appropriations of $230.9 million, making it equal to an inflationary increase.

Rastetter said the board put together its original proposal for state funding support — including the request for no increase at UI — based on requests.

Iowa State said it needed $8 million to deal with enrollment growth. UNI needed $7-plus million to offset its resident-heavy population. And, Rastetter said, UI administrators said they didn’t need any new money but might need to raise tuition next year.

“That is what was forwarded to the board office,” Rastetter said. “They didn’t need any new money, coupled with the … decision on what the tuition increase may or may not be next year.”

Rastetter said the UI’s request changed after discussions with UI President-elect J. Bruce Harreld as well as faculty, staff and students.

“When he defined that — in particular with teaching and research — where the dollars would go, rather than just a general appropriations increase, it made sense,” Rastetter said.

Regent President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland said she supports the board’s funding request but has concerns about the apparent mixed messages from UI administrators, who now want more money, and UI students, who say they don’t 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,” she said. “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.”

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