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Regents to consider differential tuition at UI, ISU, UNI

'Differential tuition allows us to more fairly distribute the cost'

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Iowa’s public universities are asking the Board of Regents to approve higher tuition rates for some upperclassmen as part of a tuition proposal for the next school year that would increase base resident undergraduate rates by 2 percent.

That residential undergraduate increase — which would amount to $142 for the academic year — is part of a new two-year proposal for both tuition and state appropriation requests aimed at helping lawmakers and students plan for future changes. The Board of Regents at its last meeting — as part of the new biannual plan — approved a request of 2 percent more in state appropriations for the 2018 budget year.

Although the board is approving appropriation requests and tuition increases one year at a time, the two-year plan lets families and lawmakers know what to expect, according to board officials.

In addition to the proposed residential undergraduate tuition increase for next year — which, if approved, would come after two consecutive increases — the universities are requesting some upperclassmen pay even more, according to the new tuition proposal made public Tuesday.

Iowa State University, for example, is asking the regents to approve a new differential tuition structure for upper division students in five programs: animal science, biology, computer science, industrial design, and natural resources ecology and management.

The differential rate, as proposed for Iowa State, would be rolled out over three years and amount to $1,600 for residents when fully implemented. In the first year, according to the proposal, the increase would come in at $534 above the $142 base hike, according to Board of Regents documents.

The increases target specific programs that cost more to run, and students benefit via intensive laboratory, studio, or hands-on models of instruction, according to Iowa State.

“Costs associated with animal science education include the purchase, care, and feedback of livestock, which are significant,” according to regent documents.

Additionally, Iowa State is asking to increase tuition for some business students over three years, with the first-year increase amounting to $190 over the base hike for residents and $180 more for nonresidents.

The University of Iowa, which this fall implemented differential tuition increases based on program and year, also is requesting more dramatic tuition hikes next year for College of Engineering students.

According to the proposal, resident and non-resident first-year students would pay $1,000 more; second-year resident engineering students would pay $1,316 more; and second-year non-resident engineering students would pay $1,548. Those increases all would be in addition to the base tuition bumps, according to regent documents.

University of Northern Iowa is requesting a 2-percent increase to its existing differential rate for upper-division students in the College of Business Administration.

After the board earlier this year approved UI’s differential tuition increases for the academic year that started this fall, UI Provost Barry Butler said, “Certain majors or programs are more expensive to provide than others.”

“To remain a leader in these programs, we need top-notch faculty, state-of-the-art laboratory space and research equipment, and dedicated support staff,” Butler said in a statement. “Differential tuition allows us to more fairly distribute the cost to the students studying in those programs.”

Regarding the universities’ tuition-increase requests for non-resident undergraduate students, UI is asking for a 2.51 percent hike — equal to $686; ISU is asking for a 3 percent bump — or $614; and UNI is requesting a .8 percent increase — equal to $142.

Rates for graduate students at all three universities also are proposed to increase by 2.51 percent for UI residents, 3 percent of ISU residents, and 1.65 percent for UNI residents.

University and regent leaders have said the tuition hikes will supplement shortcomings in state appropriations, which have fallen below requests for two consecutive years. The proposed tuition rates for the 2018 school year, if approved, would generate about $28.8 million in revenue — or about 1.86 percent of the budget.

That revenue combined with an additional $12.8 million in state appropriations for the 2018 budget year, which the board agreed to request last month, would increase the overall budget by 2.7 percent.

UI President Bruce Harreld has said tuition increases are necessary to remain competitive and achieve goals of excellence in academics and research.

Still, some regents have expressed hesitation.

If approved, the tuition increases could be compounded by proposed hikes in mandatory fees equal to 2 percent at UI, 5.2 percent at ISU, and 2.6 percent at UNI, according to regent documents.

When calculating tuition and fees, room and board, and other costs, the estimated total cost of attendance for resident undergraduate students is $21,508 at UI, $20,451.90 at ISU, and $20,192 at UNI.

Despite the increases, board documents show the state’s public universities remain near the bottom in tuition and fee rates among peer institutions. UI and ISU, in fact, have the least expensive rates for residents, and UNI is fourth from the bottom in that category, according to regent documents.

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