Tuition going up at Iowa universities

The Board of Regents approved a significant tuition hike yesterday in response to expected reductions in state funding for the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. B.A. Morelli reported for the Iowa City Press-Citizen,

In-state students at UI, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa will see a 5 percent increase. But there are additional mandatory fees, and out-of-state students and students in specialized programs, such as business, engineering and nursing, will have increases up to 41.4 percent.

Details and background information are after the jump.

Currently tuition at the University of Iowa is $7,417 for in-state students and $23,713 for out-of-state students. Iowa State University charges $6,997 and $18,563, respectively, and the University of Northern Iowa charges $7,008 and $15,348. The total cost of attendance for in-state students is more than double the tuition rate when one includes room and board and fees for books and supplies.

Although the majority of students at all three universities receive some financial aid, the tuition hike will cause real hardship for many students and their families. The most recent data on wages in Iowa show that the average weekly wage rose by 3.4 percent from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010. That was the 10th highest rate of increase in the country, but in absolute terms, Iowa wages are still low. The average weekly wage in Iowa during the second quarter of 2010 was $709, which puts us in 44th place among the 50 states and District of Columbia.

Two regents, Michael Gartner and Ruth Harkin, voted against the tuition increase. The seven who voted in favor were David Miles, Jack Evans, Bonnie Campbell, Robert Downer, Craig Lang, Greta Johnson and Rose Vasquez. (Governor Terry Branstad’s three appointees to the board will begin their terms on May 1.) Morelli reported,

Gartner proposed using the 5 percent increase as a cap and leveraging more state funds from lawmakers by offering to reduce the increase for in-state undergraduates. For every $7 million more the state provided, the regents could reduce the increase by 1 percentage point for in-state undergraduates, he said. […]

However, regents and university officials said it was too late in the game for such a proposal. Tuition normally is approved in December but the regents pushed it back, waiting for a clearer picture on budget expectations. Students and families typically must decide on admission by May 1, and they need a firm figure for what their tuition will be, ISU President Gregory Geoffroy said.

Geoffroy, University of Iowa President Sally Mason and UNI President Ben Allen advocated for the tuition increase at the Board of Regents’ February meeting. They all said the tuition increase is needed to help make up for the loss of some state funding in the 2012 fiscal year. The Iowa legislature has not yet approved next year’s budget, but both Governor Branstad and the Iowa House have proposed reducing total appropriations for regents universities. Budget targets favored by Iowa Senate Democrats would keep next year’s total education funding at about the same level as the 2011 fiscal year.

In all likelihood tuition would not be going up for thousands of Iowa students if legislators had pledged to maintain or increase current funding levels. State revenues have come in ahead of projections in recent months, and Iowa is expected to end the current fiscal year with nearly $900 million in combined surpluses and reserve funds.

Although university officials and Board of Regents members have made clear that state funding reductions prompted the tuition increase, I predict that Iowa Republicans will blame public employee raises for students’ financial burden. Morelli reported that in a separate vote yesterday,

The regents approved a 2 percent salary increase next year and a 2.5 percent increase the following year for University of Iowa graduate student employees. Members of Service Employees International Union will receive an across-the-board 3 percent raise the next two years. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees will receive a 2 percent raise in July and a 1 percent raise in January each of the next two years and a continuation of step increases valued at 4.5 percent for eligible employees.

Any thoughts about education funding in Iowa are welcome in this thread.

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  • Not surprising

    I actually knew seven or eight hard line conservatives there on campus during my short time at U of I.  I always wondered what kind of financial assistance they were getting, only a couple of them seemed wealthy, but I could have been wrong with my prejudices.