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Two months before the fall semester starts at Iowa’s public universities, the Board of Regents this week will hold a first consideration of raising tuition at all three of its institutions — with the University of Iowa and Iowa State University proposing a 3.5 percent hike for state resident undergraduates.
The University of Northern Iowa, which for the past two years has kept tuition rates frozen, is seeking a 1.5 percent increase for both resident and non-resident undergrads.
The board will hold a special meeting Thursday for its first reading of the 2021-22 tuition rates and fees. Regent policy requires two readings — with final approval allowed after the second consideration, expected in late July and just weeks before classes start Aug. 23.
“Our universities need an appropriate amount of resources to continue to provide high quality education,” board President Mike Richards said during a regents meeting earlier this month. “But we also want to keep our universities as accessible and affordable as possible for Iowans. There are many factors to consider."
All three campuses held tuition and fees flat during the unprecedented 2020-2021 academic year complicated and compromised by the pandemic. The pause came despite the regents rolling out a five-year tuition plan in 2018 promising stepped annual increases at the UI and ISU of at least 3 percent, possibly more.
The plan sets guardrails that keep yearly rate hikes down if lawmakers fulfill regent appropriations requests. It allows rates to increase by more than 3 percent if they don’t. And in the most recent legislative session, they didn’t.
For fiscal 2022, “the General Assembly froze state funding (no change from FY 2021) for the general university appropriations that support regent higher education,” according to board documents made public Monday.
Last September, the board asked lawmakers to restore the $8 million they took back from the regents amid COVID-19 concerns last summer and to increase general education appropriations by another $18 million — bringing the state’s total support for the regent enterprise to $642.9 million in fiscal 2022.
“Regent institutions need adequate support from all sources, while promoting the effective use of resources to meet institutional missions and to maintain the quality of education Iowans expect,” according to the regent tuition proposal.
Richards recently promised a more traditional version of that educational experience across all three campuses this fall, after the universities moved many courses online last year amid the pandemic.
“Campuses will return to offering in-person academic coursework to the same extent prior to the advent of the pandemic, with no social distancing or masking requirements,” he said before discussing tuition.
This year’s proposed rate increases for resident undergraduates amounts to:
- $283 for UI students, bringing their base tuition to $8,356;
- $282 for ISU students, bringing the base rate to $8,324;
- $115 for UNI students, bringing the base to $7,780.
The campuses also aim to increase rates for non-resident and graduate students and for those in costlier programs.
The UI is proposing a 3.5 percent increase for resident graduate students; ISU is proposing a 4 percent increase for that group; and UNI is proposing a 1.5 percent increase for local grad students.
UNI isn’t proposing any increase to its mandatory student fees, but both the UI and ISU are.
UI administrators are proposing a $53 increase in mandatory fees for undergrads, bringing the total to $1,586 next year. ISU wants to raise its required fees for undergrads $36, bringing the total to $1,309.90.
The UI increase aims to support information technology, mental health care and Iowa Memorial Union services, among other things. The ISU bump would support its student health center, CyRide and the memorial union.
Including tuition and fees, room and board, and other expenses, the estimated cost of attendance for resident undergraduates is projected to increase:
- $1,079.50, or 4.4 percent, to $25,534 at the UI;
- $213, or 1 percent, to $22,192.90 at ISU;
- $115, or .5 percent, to $21,409 at UNI.
When comparing resident undergraduate tuition and fee totals at Iowa’s public universities to those at their 10 respective peer institutions in 2020-21, all three ranked second to the lowest.
- For the UI, reporting a $9,606 tuition and fees total, only the University of North Carolina had a lower total at $8,980, with University of Illinois charging the most at $16,862;
- For ISU, with its $9,316 total, only North Carolina State charged less at $9,101, with Penn State University charging the most among its peers at $18,450;
- For UNI and its $8,938 rate total, only Western Washington beat its price at $8,508, with Massachusetts-Dartsmouth topping its list at $14,834.
While ranking higher on their respective lists of non-resident rates, all three universities still fall below the group averages.
UNI doesn’t employ differential tuition rates for students enrolled in costlier programs, but the UI and ISU do.
Resident and non-resident undergraduates in UI upper division computer science, for example, are facing a $1,336.50 increase next year — or 14 percent for residents. UI dentistry students are facing increases of between $1,666.50 and $2,811.50.
ISU is proposing increases of over $1,000 to $2,000-plus for some of its engineering, agriculture, computer science, architecture, design and animal science students, among others.
“The revenue generated from differential tuition assessments will be used to maintain the quality of the academic programs and support the cost of instruction,” according to the ISU proposal.
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