In a new approach to budgeting that could give families a little more help in forecasting the costs of higher education, Iowa’s Board of Regents next week will consider a road map that better shows the needs of its universities.
The blueprint reflects a 2-percent increase in state support for the universities in both the 2018 and 2019 budget years. And — importantly for students and their families looking ahead — it lays out a proposed 2-percent bump in resident undergraduate tuition for each of the years.
The multiyear plan is “dynamic,” meaning it could change, according to board documents made public Tuesday. That’s why regents during their meeting at the University of Iowa next week will consider approving only the 2018 appropriations request.
Same goes for tuition. The first consideration of tuition rates for the 2017-2018 academic year is set for October, but the board won’t vote to on two academic years of tuition bumps at once. The road map is only for planning, board spokesman Josh Lehman said.
“We want to provide as much predictability as possible to our students and their families,” board President Bruce Rastetter said in a statement. “By going to this new model, students and parents will know tuition rates well in advance, and the state will know our thinking on funding for two years.”
The regents in the past have come under some criticism from student leaders for approving tuition increases too late for students and families to effectively plan ahead.
The board next week will consider approving a 2018 state operating appropriations request totaling $656.3 million — about $12.5 million or 2 percent more than last year. In terms of general university appropriations, the board is asking for $12.8 million more than 2017 allocations.
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The appropriation increase — if eventually approved by the Legislature and governor — would mean 2 percent more for each university plus an extra $2.5 million for the University of Northern Iowa. UNI has a larger proportion of resident undergrads and was disproportionally hit by past tuition freezes.
In terms of dollars, the request amounts to $4.6 million more for the UI, $4.4 million more for UNI and $3.7 million more for Iowa State University.
The board also is seeking a 40.5 percent increase in state support for the regents office — increasing its $794,714 in appropriations this year to $1.1 million next year.
Earlier this year, the Legislature “reduced the board office appropriation for FY2017 by over 27 percent,” according to board documents. The request would restore that and add 2 percent.
This year’s requests differ from recent years in that the board is proposing the biggest dollar increase for the UI.
In justifying this year’s university appropriation requests, the board outlined how the money would be used.
The UI would:
• Increase support for undergraduate courses with high-failure and withdrawal rates, new academic programs and an intensive entrepreneurial program.
• Improve retention and graduation rates.
• Address access and affordability issues.
• Review doctorate programs with a focus on graduate and professional student success.
• And increase faculty salary competitiveness.
• Address critical capacity needs from an undergraduate enrollment that has increased 26 percent in five years.
• Hire more faculty to serve the growing population and increase student support services.
• Maintain technology to support student learning in classrooms and laboratories.
• Increase support for online learning, including tutors.
• Continue improving access and affordability.
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• Improved safety in labs, maintain study and collaboration space and make exterior improvements on campus.
And UNI would:
• Better determine enrollment targets and strategic investments in recruiting aimed at growing enrollment and attracting more out-of-state students.
• Support “student success coaching,” peer mentors and first-year only courses aimed at improving retention.
• And increase faculty and staff strength by rewarding excellence.