Education

Regents eye 3.9 percent tuition hike for Iowa and Iowa State

Tuition at the smaller University of Northern Iowa wouldn't change

Departing Regent Larry McKibben (center) and Rachael Johnson (right) listen to a speaker during the public comments section of the Iowa Board of Regents meeting at the University of Iowa’s Levitt Center for University Advancement in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Departing Regent Larry McKibben (center) and Rachael Johnson (right) listen to a speaker during the public comments section of the Iowa Board of Regents meeting at the University of Iowa’s Levitt Center for University Advancement in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Resident undergraduate students planning to attend the University of Iowa or Iowa State University next fall will pay 3.9 percent more in tuition than this year if the Board of Regents approves a staff recommendation made public Monday.

That rate is higher than a 3 percent increase the board earlier this year promoted as possible had the Iowa Legislature granted its state appropriations request.

Under the regent’s tuition guidance, the board would hold resident undergrad rate increases at the two universities to 3 percent annually provided lawmakers grant the regents’ full funding ask. On the opposite end of the scale, if lawmakers did not approve any increase, the board would raise the 3 percent rate to add the “Higher Education Price Index,” which was 2 percent this year.

But the base rate at the state’s third public university, the University of Northern Iowa, would not change because its student body makeup is different and it faces a different competitive landscape.

Republicans who control the Legislature last week approved a $985 million education budget that includes a $12 million general fund bump for the regents — $6 million shy of the $18 million the board wanted.

That increase — which Gov. Kim Reynolds has yet to approve — will bring total appropriations for the regents to about $575.4 million, up from this budget year’s $562.9 million.

Lawmakers gave the board discretion on how to split the extra $12 million between the UI, ISU and UNI. The board previously said that if it received the full $18 million more, it would give $7 million to both the UI and ISU and the remaining $4 million to UNI.

The board has not yet disclosed how it might split the $12 million.

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And UNI will be seeking a hefty chunk as it will not be getting the tuition revenue bump its sister schools are counting on, according to Monday’s tuition proposal.

UNI is treated differently under the regents’ new tuition plan because it has a fewer students, a greater share of resident undergrads who pay the lowest rates and less-expensive competitors.

Board policy requires two public considerations of tuition, but regents have postponed making a decision even as the fall semester was inching closer because the Legislature still was in session for the year until Saturday afternoon.

Regents now will hold a special telephone meeting for the first vote, set for 2 p.m. Wednesday. That will allow them to finalize the fall rates at their June meeting, which will be held at ISU.

In response to Monday’s tuition proposal, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, laid blame for the rising costs on his Republican colleagues.

“While the Republican-controlled Legislature finally supported a modest increase in state appropriations for our public universities, funding levels are still inadequate to make up for years of actual declining state funding,” he said in an email to The Gazette.

“When the Legislature fails, students get a bigger tuition bill. Sadly, many students will miss the opportunity to attend one of these great institutions because they simply can’t afford to.”

Monday’s proposal includes increases for non-resident students, graduate and professional students and those in costlier programs.

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Although UNI is not increasing costs for anyone, ISU wants to increase out-of-state undergrad rates 5 percent, while the UI wants to charge those students only 1 percent more.

At the graduate level, ISU wants to up rates 5 percent for both resident and non-resident students, while the UI has proposed more modest increases of 3 percent for residents and 1 percent for non-residents.

ISU and the UI also want to raise student fees about 2.5 percent at all levels for all students.

The proposed tuition and fee increases would bring the total annual cost for a resident undergrad to $9,606 at the UI and $9,320 at ISU. The cost at UNI cost would stay $8,938. Still, those totals keep Iowa’s public universities at or near the bottom of what their peer groups charge.

On top of the base increases, differential tuition rates — for students in costlier programs — could amount to thousands more, depending on the school, program and resident status.

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

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