Higher education

Regents approve tuition increases for all students

Decision rejects Iowa State student request for larger upperclassmen hike

The Old Capitol Building on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Old Capitol Building on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Tu Tuition for every student at Iowa’s three public universities will go up in the next school year after the Board of Regents on Monday unanimously approved a third consecutive increase.

The latest bump, approved for the 2017-2018 school year, includes a 2 percent increase in the base resident undergraduate rate — pushing it to $7,270 at the University of Iowa and to $7,240 at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

The package also includes varying increases for out-of-state and graduate students and for students in some of the more expensive programs across the campuses.

The “differential tuition” model approved Monday has been billed as an attempt to more fairly distribute the cost of education. But it falls short of demands from ISU student leaders, who recently asked the board to delay its tuition vote and reconsider a more comprehensive differential tuition model that raises rates for all upperclassmen – not just those in costlier programs.

After the board’s vote Monday, ISU Student Body President Cole Staudt issued a statement noting, “I placed my trust in the members of the board.”

“I trusted that they listened to us and would make a decision after gathering all the facts,” he said. “That trust has been broken. I can no longer say that I trust that the regents are truly looking out for the best interest of our university.”

The differential tuition model approved Monday raises rates 16 percent for first-year, in-state engineering students at the UI, for example. Second-year UI engineering students will face a nearly 18 percent rate hike while non-resident students in that category will see an 8 percent increase.

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At ISU, resident students in some of the most expensive programs — animal science, biology, computer science, industrial design and natural resources ecology and management — will see nearly 10 percent hikes.

“Students in these programs benefit from an intensive laboratory, studio or hands-on model of instruction, which is associated with a higher cost of instruction,” wrote Megan Landolt, ISU assistant to the president for communications, in an email.

But, according to a resolution the ISU student senate passed last month, the differential tuition model approved Monday does not satisfy the university’s need for more tuition income “in order to preserve our standards as an institution.”

Rather, according to the resolution, it “only maintains the services already provided and does not substantially improve the educational experience.”

Staudt said he emailed a copy of the student senate’s resolution to the board, calling on regents to investigate higher tuition for all upperclassmen. The students received no response until weeks later – after the ISU Faculty Senate came out in support of the students, according to Staudt.

“What is even more disturbing is that this is not the first time the board has ignored us,” according to Staudt. “It seems that every year we ask the board to consider an alternative or reject the proposal on the table, and they do not.”

ISU students have questioned whether administrators pulled back on the idea of the broader two-tiered system after Gov. Terry Branstad said he didn’t like it. In follow-up conversations with regents, Staudt said, some didn’t know about it, “which was startling to me.”

“If the regents did not have the info on the proposal, I doubt the governor got all the facts before he commented,” Staudt said.

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Landolt said that in vetting the original proposal for a more comprehensive differential tuition model, Iowa State’s provost received positive feedback from the campus.

“However, based on initial feedback from the Board of Regents and the governor — both of which had concerns about the comprehensive two-tiered tuition structure idea — the university did not move forward with a formal proposal,” she said in an email.

During Monday’s meeting, Regents President Bruce Rastetter acknowledged the student comments but said the board’s tuition discussions began last summer and have been thorough. Increasing tuition for all upperclassmen, regardless of program, goes against a board philosophy of tying costs with expenses, he said.

“Quite frankly, I don’t believe the board is inclined to just have across-the-board tuition increases that make it more expensive for every student irrespective of the program,” Rastetter said. “So yes, we considered it. But that is just very clearly and bluntly our approach.”

When asked whether the governor’s comments affected the board’s decision, Rastetter said, “I think Gov. Branstad’s comments really reflect the philosophy that the board has.”

“Why would you increase everyone’s tuition when they’re not in an expensive program?” he asked.

The hike follows a similar increase approved for the current academic year and a last-minute bump approved late in 2015 for the 2016 spring semester at UNI and ISU and the 2016 fall semester at the UI.

Before those increases, regents froze resident undergraduate tuition for two and a half years.

Regents cited shortcomings in state appropriations for the need to increase tuition.

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