University of Iowa dropping summer school aid after state cuts

Administrators vow to channel efforts, resources elsewhere

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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa, in response to deep cuts in state aid, is dropping a popular summer-school financial aid program aimed at helping students graduate on time.

Administrators on Thursday announced that after the 2018 summer session, the institution will discontinue its Summer Hawk Tuition Grant program, which began offering undergraduate summer school grants in 2014.

“Unfortunately, after four years, we’re finding that there are many factors that impact time to graduation that are not specifically addressed by Summer Hawk,” Lon Moeller, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of the University College, said in a statement. “And with diminishing resources from the state, we have to channel our efforts to where we can have the greatest positive impact on improving graduation rates.”

Former UI President Sally Mason in 2013 debuted the program, which offered new UI undergraduate students from Iowa a full-tuition scholarship for up to 12 hours of summer study. It covered part of the costs for qualifying non-residents.

By the program’s second year, the number of participants had spiked from 313 to 1,142, The Gazette reported in 2015. The value of those scholarships rose from about $900,000 to $3.5 million, UI officials reported at the time.

The program launched amid a UI push to increase enrollment and Board of Regents efforts to freeze tuition. But state funding cuts since have prompted the university to rethink some of its scholarship offerings.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers slashed Board of Regents base funding by more than $30 million for the 2017 and 2018 budget years. The UI’s portion of that cut was $15.4 million.

In March, UI President Bruce Harreld told lawmakers he was nixing five annually renewable, non-merit and non-need-based scholarships in response to the dramatic reductions. But blowback from that decision — which would have affected more than 3,000 students — prompted Harreld to reverse course and allow awardees to continue getting the aid.

The university did drop the programs going forward. And over the summer the university announced it was scaling back Summer Hawk aid by limiting the number of course credit hours for which a student could use the grant.

Moeller, at the time, told The Gazette, “We chose to revise the Summer Hawk Tuition Grant rather than to end the program.”

The Board of Regents, in advance of the upcoming Legislative session, have asked the state to increase base appropriations by $12 million — $5 million each to UI and Iowa State University, and $2 million to University of Northern Iowa. All that money would go toward resident undergraduate need-based financial aid. If the state doesn’t provide any increase, UI and Iowa State have asked regents to raise tuition rates 7 percent a year for the next five years — exemplifying the tight budget times.

UI officials on Thursday reported that in the most recent summer session, the Summer Hawk program provided $6.2 million in grants to 2,161 students. Meanwhile the Class of 2017 — the first class to complete four years with the Summer Hawk Tuition Grant offering — achieved a four-year graduate rate of 54 percent, matching that of the previous two classes.

UI Student Government President Jacob Simpson in a statement about the decision to ditch the Summer Hawk offering backed the university decision.

“With decreases in state appropriations, it is important that the University of Iowa direct its resources to the most impactful student success initiatives,” Simpson said. “We look forward to working with Associate Provost Moeller and other campus partners to invest the Summer Hawk resources into efforts that improve the retention and graduation rates for students, particularly first-generation, underrepresented minority, and low-income students.”

Moeller vowed that will happen, as the UI remains “committed to finding new ways to meet the needs of our students.”

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

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