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After University of Northern Iowa and Des Moines Area Community College in 2020 debuted a streamlined path for DMACC students seeking a four-year UNI degree, the pair have announced a new “tuition equality” initiative allowing the students to get their Panther degrees for a Bears tuition rate.
The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines Catalyst Circle is making the initiative possible through a $250,000 grant to fund scholarships for DMACC graduates seeking UNI degrees.
The need-based scholarships “will effectively allow students to complete a UNI degree for the cost of DMACC tuition,” creating “one of the most affordable” paths to a four-year degree in Iowa.
The grant-supported scholarships will help bridge an average tuition gap of about $1,000 per semester for UNI@DMACC students — at a time of increasing need, as COVID has cramped family finances and forced tuition increases across Iowa’s public universities.
In a statement, UNI President Mark Nook thanked Catalyst Circle’s investment in enabling “educational opportunities that will create a communitywide impact in the growth of Des Moines’ high-demand workforce while elevating the quality of life for students and their families.”
“We are thankful for the Catalyst Circle’s support as we build and scale the UNI@DMACC partnership, an innovative program that responds to the needs of Iowans,” Nook said.
UNI is looking to increase its enrollment — which has slipped 22 percent since 2013, from 12,159 total students that year to last fall’s 9,522. The campuses haven’t released new fall enrollment numbers yet — although projections have warned of an ongoing pandemic impact.
In that UNI relies heavily on both state support and tuition dollars to fund its general education operations, the campus this fall imposed a 1.5-percent campuswide rate increase — despite freezing costs for the past two years in hopes of keeping it competitive with regional peer institutions.
For UNI resident undergraduates, the tuition increase amounts to a $115 increase — bringing that base tuition rate to $7,780 for the academic year.
DMACC for this academic year is charging $174 per credit hour for Iowa residents taking any combination of in-person, hybrid, or online classes.
The Catalyst Circle investment matches $250,000 the UNI-DMACC partnership already secured for the scholarship initiative from business and private donors.
In a statement, Catalyst Chair Sunnie Richer said, “The opportunities this scholarship will provide for UNI@DMACC students and their families is an investment in our entire community.”
The UNI@DMACC program — offered online for student convenience and to support workforce demands — launched last fall in hopes of making a bachelor’s degree more accessible and affordable to the 5,000-plus students pursuing associate degrees at DMACC’s diverse urban campus in downtown Des Moines.
The UNI@DMACC program offers four degree options: bachelor of liberal studies, bachelor of applied science in criminal justice, bachelor of applied science in managing business and organizations, and bachelor of arts in elementary education.
It’s part of a $24 million fundraising campaign to build a new STEM and Student Life facility at the DMACC Urban Campus. Before this recent collaboration, UNI and DMACC partnered for a 2+2 elementary education program offered in Carroll and Ankeny.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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