Mason backs tuition increases


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University of Iowa officials said on Thursday they support the potential tuition increases facing UI students.

During a discussion at the state Board of Regents meeting in Iowa City, UI President Sally Mason said she supports a proposal to increase in-state undergraduate tuition at the UI by 5 percent for the 2011-12 year. Mason also said she agrees with the proposed 3.1 percent increase in student fees.

But she didn’t mention the 6 percent increase out-of-state students face, nor the 41 percent increase in tuition for in-state freshmen enrolling in the College of Nursing. College of Engineering in-state freshmen will see a 21 percent increase.

The increases for those colleges will only affect incoming students. Those already enrolled in the programs will face the standard 5 percent growth.

Mason cited accessibility, quality of UI programs and affordability in her presentation to the regents.

“We are not trying to make up for the budget cuts faced in the last few years,” she told the regents. “I sincerely hope you will approve this budget request, so that we can continue to fund the future.”

But UI student leaders were not so quick to endorse the potential hikes. Both undergraduate-student President John Rigby and graduate-student President Lyndsay Harshman told regents the potential debt facing students should be considered before the they act on the increases.

“I can’t willingly endorse the increase at this point,” Rigby said. “But I would like to work with board and university administration to find a more reasonable solution that is not an increase of such magnitude.”

And Harshman pointed out tuition at the graduate level will affect undergraduate as well as graduate students.

“Financial needs — both at the state and university levels — not only affect the quality of graduate education but can and will affect the quality of undergraduate education,” she said.

Rita Frantz, the dean of the College of Nursing, said officials recommended the increases because more and more people are enrolling in the program as freshmen. Nursing students enter more of a clinical field, which causes the program to be more costly than the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, she said.

The nursing school admits 75 students each semester, she said, and she doesn’t think that number will change with the tuition increases.

“We have a very high demand exceeding what we are able to admit, so I have all the confidence in the program,” she said

The challenge, Mason said, is to maintain access and affordability for our students and their families and to continue to deliver the high quality education they have come to expect.

Regent Ruth Harkin asked the three institutions to consider the future of increased tuition and fees.

“How high can we continue to set tuitions and what do we need to offload to maintain the initiatives talked about?” she said.

Regent President David Miles said the proposals are not intended to replace the nearly $118 million in state appropriations lost in the last two years.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the sound education of the students at our institutions,” he said.

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