Education

Tuition variances to increase among Iowa universities, students

Board of Regents expects final rate approval in June

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)

COUNCIL BLUFFS — A tuition proposal the Board of Regents discussed Thursday would further differentiate rates between the public universities and within groups of students.

Costs are going up for all students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, but rates are rising more for UI and ISU students and for some in costlier majors. The institutional and student leaders expressed support Thursday for more tuition differentiation.

“Of all the approaches we’ve seen, this one seems to make the most sense to me and the students I represent,” Iowa State Student Body President Cody West told regents during the first of two considerations required for setting tuition. The board expects to finalize rates for this fall in June — much later than usual.

Proposed base tuition increases for resident undergraduates at the UI and ISU are 3.8 percent, while UNI is asking for a 2.8 percent increase.

That amounts to a $284 increase at the UI and ISU and a $209 increase at UNI, totaling annual base tuition rates of $7,770 at the UI, $7,740 at ISU and $7,665 at UNI.

With mandatory fees, which also are increasing, along with room and board and other costs, the average estimated cost of attendance for a resident undergrad next academic year is about $21,369 — or $533 more than this year.

When factoring in scholarships and grants, the net cost of attending a regent university for students of all income levels is an average $14,912 a year. Breaking that down by university, UNI is the most expensive at $15,942, compared with UI at $14,845 and ISU at $13,949.

UNI President Mark Nook said that poses a real problem for UNI.

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“It’s impacting our enrollment,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons we have asked to get a separation in our base tuition rates.”

Regents President Mike Richards said UNI isn’t looking to decrease tuition — which he expects will keep rising on all three campuses amid state budget cuts. But UNI likely will request smaller increases than the UI and ISU.

ISU plans to expand its differential tuition program, which will affect more students. The portion of undergrads paying the higher rates would go from 34 percent in fall 2017 to 56 percent this fall. The portion of graduate students paying the higher rates would reach 74 percent, up from 45.

ISU has pitched the change as an effort to “simplify differential tuition rates over the next three years” by phasing into just two categories.

One would result in a $1,600 difference for students majoring in “experiential-learning intensive science, technology, and mathematics programs” in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences and Human Services, along with the College of Design, excluding the art and design bachelor’s degree in visual culture.

The second rate category would result in a $2,612 difference for resident students and a $3,026 difference for non-residents and international students in the colleges of Business, Engineering and the agricultural systems and industrial technology programs within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Most differential rates for both programs would be assessed after 60 credits, or typically the start of a student’s third year.

ISU additionally is asking for a $542 increase for all international students, marking the final installment of what amounts to a $1,556 increase over three years.

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The UI also charges higher tuition for students in costlier programs including business, engineering, medicine and nursing. But those rates are proposed to increase at the same rate as other programs — so 3.8 percent for residents and 2.1 percent for non-residents.

UNI’s differential tuition program is limited to upper division business students, who would see a 2.8 percent increase under the plan.

Revenue from the increases would amount to about $24.9 million in the 2019 budget year.

State funding for the upcoming budget year remains unknown. Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed an increase of $7.25 million, falling short of the board’s requested $12 million. Legislators haven’t released their budget or even targets.

Regent Larry McKibben told student leaders that means “the budget game is just beginning.” He urged the student body presidents to demand a meeting with Reynolds next week.

“We are losing great researchers. Great faculty and staff … I’m sure your presidents will let you out of class. If you would consider doing that, I believe the governor would absolutely make time to listen to you,” he said.

McKibben slammed income tax cut proposals released this week, calling them a “ruse to somehow make the election candidates look good.”

“It is nothing more than a tax increase on children and their families in our higher education system,” he said. “As an Iowa native, I’m embarrassed right now.”

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