Education

University of Iowa, Iowa State eyeing 3.8 percent tuition hike

Total cost to attend UI in the fall could swell to $22,101

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph in Iowa City in 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph in Iowa City in 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The average cost for an undergraduate student from Iowa to attend a Board of Regents university next fall — including tuition and fees, room and board, and other expenses — could reach $21,370 a year if proposed rate hikes are approved next week.

When looking just at tuition, the board has suggested increasing residential undergraduate rates 3.8 percent at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University and 2.8 percent at University of Northern Iowa.

Those proposals would bump up rates at the UI from $7,486 to $7,770; at ISU from $7,456 to $$7,740; and at UNI from $7,456 to $7,665.

The increases, if approved by the nine-member board, would take effect next fall for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Regents typically approve tuition much earlier — nearly a year before the rates apply. But the board last fall opted to postpone its tuition discussion in light of recent legislative decisions either to approve appropriations late or enact hefty midyear cuts that forced the board to go back and reset previously approved rates.

The regents next week will consider a first of two required readings of the proposed tuition rates — with final approval expected in June. The proposed increases are below what all three university presidents requested over the summer — arguing that UI and ISU, for example, would need five years of seven percent increases to fulfill their strategic goals without more state support.

Board President Mike Richards, in response to criticism of those proposals, vowed residential undergraduate increases would stay below four percent for the fall.

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“We heard from a wide variety of constituents, both during our 2017 Tuition Task Force meetings and since, about the need to keep our institutions affordable and accessible,” Richards said in a statement. “However, our public universities need financial resources to continue to provide the top-quality education our students expect and deserve. I believe these rates strike a balance.”

In response to the tuition proposal, UI Student Government President Jacob Simpson on Tuesday told The Gazette he’s glad Richards kept his word on keeping rates below four percent.

“But of course this goes back to, why are we raising tuition in the first place?” Simpson said, referring to state decreases in higher education support. “The tuition proposal is a result of that, and we hope that over time this trend doesn’t continue.”

The regents’ university presidents are expected to make revised presentations on tuition revenue needs during the board’s tuition discussion next week. Those presentations would be in light of the most recent round of midyear cuts pulling a combined $11 million back from UI and Iowa State.

Also during next week’s meeting the board will consider a proposal to split that $11 million cut about evenly — taking $5.5 million back from UI and $5.4 million from Iowa State.

The board has asked for $12 million more in state support for the 2019 budget year, but Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed $7.25 million, and lawmakers haven’t made any final decisions.

John McGlothlen / The Gazette

University and board administrators have been critical of the Legislature’s “generational disinvestment” in higher education, as UI President Bruce Harreld recently put it. Board documents spell out the declines, noting state support for regent university general education budgets has been cut more than $40 million since the start of the 2017 budget year — not even two years ago.

“Looking farther back, state support for university general education funds totaled $592.5 million at the beginning of (fiscal year) 2009, over $118 million more than it is today,” according to board documents. “When compared to FY 1998, state support in FY 2018 is $7 million dollars less than it was 20 years ago.”

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And, the board reports, Iowa’s general fund budget has grown about $2.9 billion over that time, while enrollment at its public universities has swelled more than 20 percent.

“Only through a strong partnership of university efficiencies, state appropriations and reasonable tuition rates will our universities increase the quality and distinction Iowans expect from their public universities,” Richards said in his statement.

The board office also is suggesting the schools increase non-residential undergraduate rates by 2.1 percent at UI, bringing the total to $29,736; 4 percent at Iowa State, bringing the total to $22,144; and 1.2 percent at UNI, bringing the total to $18,207.

Proposed graduate student increases include 4 percent for both residents and nonresidents at Iowa State. The UI and UNI have more modest increases at the graduate level, ranging from 1.1 percent for nonresidents at UNI to 3.8 percent for UI residents.

All three universities have some form of differential tuition rates — those imposed on students in more costly programs. Those rates are proposed to increase as well, although Iowa State has crafted a plan to simplify its differential tuition rates over the next three years, eventually charging students in one group $1,600 more and students in a second group between $2,612 and $3,026 more.

The steepest proposed increases among those paying differential tuition and fees include nearly 16 percent, or $1,560 more, for Iowa State resident graduate students studying agriculture and Biosystems engineering; and 12 percent, or $1,102, for resident undergraduates at Iowa State studying industrial design.

Proposed Board of Regents tuition rates are expected to generate about $24.9 million for the 2019 budget year.

Assuming no more changes in state funding, that revenue partially offset by the state cuts would result in a .9 percent increase in the board’s higher education budget in 2019.

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And, along with tuition, the board will consider fee increases — with the steepest of 5.8 percent at Iowa State, followed by a 2.4 percent fee increase at UNI, and a 1.2 percent increase at the UI.

When taking into consider tuition, fees, room and board, and other costs, the anticipated cost to attend the three public universities for a residential undergraduate student next fall is $22,101 at the UI, $600 more than this year; $21,172 at ISU, or $594 more than this year; and $20,836, or $406 more.

In the current budget year, UI and Iowa State rank at the bottom of their peer groups in total tuition and fees — with University of Illinois, for example, charging its resident undergraduates $15,868 to UI’s $8,965. UNI is third from the bottom of its peers.

When looking at non-resident undergraduate tuition and fees, Iowa State remains the lowest, UI is third from the bottom, and UNI is in the middle of the pack — but still below the average.

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

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