Higher education

Iowa regents to consider across-the-board tuition hikes next week

Undergrad Iowans could see increases at University of Iowa, Iowa State, and University of Northern Iowa

People walk along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People walk along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The Board of Regents didn’t get the $20 million it asked for from state lawmakers for the upcoming budget year, so it’s looking to get that money from students and their families instead.

The board on Tuesday released a proposal to raise tuition at each of its public universities in the upcoming school year — including for resident undergraduate students who it had asked the Legislature to protect from tuition hikes by providing an additional $20.34 million in general university appropriations. Because the state instead approved an increase of just $6.3 million, the board at its meeting next week will consider increasing in-state undergraduate tuition in the fall by $300 for the academic year.

That would bring tuition rates for those students to $7,178 at University of Iowa and to $7,148 at Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa.

The board’s tuition hike proposal mirrors steps taken last year after lawmakers similarly fell short of its appropriations requests. Regents had managed to keep undergraduate resident tuition frozen since the 2012-2013 school year, but the board last winter voted to end the longest sustained tuition freeze by increasing undergraduate resident rates by $100 for the spring semester at Iowa State and UNI and $200 for the full 2016-2017 academic year for UI resident undergraduates.

Because that $200 increase for UI students hasn’t yet taken effect, the additional $300 bump — if approved — would have in-state undergraduates at the University of Iowa paying $500 more per academic year than those UI students this academic year.

The board next week also will consider increasing rates for undergraduate non-resident, graduate, and professional students — with proposed hikes varying depending on the category and the university.

At University of Iowa, for example, all resident students — at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional level — will pay $300 more in tuition, while all non-resident students will pay $400 more for the upcoming academic year, according to the proposal.

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At Iowa State, meanwhile, tuition increases for undergraduate non-resident, graduate, and professional students would be $100 at the most — with professional students paying just $50 more for the year.

UNI students at all levels — both from Iowa and outside Iowa — will pay $300 more, if the board approves the proposal.

The proposed resident tuition increases are expected to generate about $14.3 million, with the total from all proposed increasing bringing in about $19.9 million, according to the board. Those revenues are expected to help the institutions “in managing inflationary expenses, meeting mandated salary increases, and directing revenues to support teaching and student needs, among other specific needs.”

“We appreciate the support that the governor and General Assembly have given the public universities over the years,” Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter said in a statement. “We understand this was a difficult economic year and were disappointed with the amount that was appropriated to our universities.”

The proposal to increase tuition came after the board “asked the universities to recommend how to provide the best education possible for all our students,” according to Rastetter.

In response to Tuesday’s tuition increase proposal, ISU President Steven Leath issued a statement praising the recommendation as enabling his institution to “recruit and retain faculty and improve services that directly support student success.”

“Over the past decade, we have experienced a 41-percent enrollment increase, which is testimony to the value of an Iowa State education,” Leath said in the statement. “However, with enrollment exceeding 36,000, we have a significant need to add faculty in order to maintain high quality and an appropriate student-to-faculty ratio.”

Even with the proposed $300 increase, Leath said, Iowa State would “continue to be the most affordable university among our group of peer research universities.”

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All three of the regent institutions have been engaged in a massive efficiency review aimed at cutting costs and finding more opportunities to generate revenue, and Leath said ISU will continue taking steps to “operate as efficiently as possible to hold down expenses.”

He also stressed fundraising efforts. Iowa State in the midst of a fundraising campaign has raised more than $180 million toward its $200 goal; UNI has raised more than $50 million since 2013; and the University of Iowa in April announced it had topped its $1.7 billion fundraising campaign goal by more than $31.7 million and counting — with eight months to go.

“We understand any cost increase can be a challenge for students and their families,” Leath said. “However, the revenue provided through this increase is absolutely necessary in order for us to maintain the academic quality and student experience that our students deserve and expect.”

In response to Tuesday’s proposed tuition increase, ISU Student Body President Coke Staudt said he plans to spend the next week gathering input from students — even though many are away for the summer break.

“Now that the proposal is public, I have mobilized every resource available to me to engage out student body spread around the world,” Staudt said in a statement. “Normally, students are on campus and gathering comments from student is not difficult. However, with the volatility in the state government’s budget, the university is scrambling to raise tuition while students are away.”

Because families likely will have to find more money to send their students to Iowa State in the fall, Staudt said he’ll spend the need week “aggressively gathering student comments” with plans to meet with the executive council the day before the board meeting next week to review them.

“They will advise me when I draft my statement to the Board of Regents,” he said.

In Leath’s response to the proposal, he outlined specific areas that would benefit from the additional tuition revenue, including recruitment and retention of faculty; expansion of support services, like advisers and tutors; increased financial literacy and like services to address student debt; and increased campus safety services.

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