Experts: tuition hikes off-setting for students


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Natalia Cardona didn’t want to be a doctor, but the University of Iowa sophomore said she knew she loved medicine and math. So, she decided to major in biochemical engineering instead.

But she and fellow sophomores ready to declare an engineering major next year could be looking at a nearly $1,300 increase in tuition.

“Right now, it’s really hard to pay tuition as it is,” Cardona said. “Higher tuition is probably going to suck, but students are just going to have to work harder for what they want.”

And some national experts said this increase would likely be followed by more in subsequent years.

“If the institutions and the state agree to it, then there could be a period of permanent shifting to tuition revenues,” said Jane Wellman, executive director of the Delta Project on postsecodary education costs, productivity, and accountability. “That means tuition will continue to go up by 5 percent or even more next year.” 

Wellman said it is possible for tuition to not increase for a year, but that would only happen if state funding increased.

Iowa state funding for higher education decreased $118 million over the last two years while tuition has increased by around 10 percent for Iowans and 13 percent for out-of-state students.

Last week, university officials proposed tuition increases as high as 21 percent for in-state sophomores in the UI College of Engineering.

The recent spike is a result of overall increases in UI tuition, plus a $1,000 engineering supplement, said Alec Scranton, the interim dean of the College of Engineering.

Juniors and seniors in the college pay a tuition supplement of $1,750 per year. But as more students qualify to enter the program during their sophomore year, the costs must be balanced with the growth, Scranton said. Engineering requires more lab-based credit hours, he added.

“Engineering is a design-based, creative enterprise,” Scranton said.

David Koser, a sophomore in civil engineering, said he understands the increases in terms of the predicted 4 percent inflation for Iowa but still thinks the numbers are “hard to live with.”

Steve Boilard, director of higher education for California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, said the unpredictability of tuition costs is unfair to students and their families because they don’t have adequate time to plan for the rising costs.

UI freshmen in the College of Nursing will experience a larger tuition hike — 41 percent for in-state students. Those students previously paid $6,128 to enter the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Now, the same group will pay $8,662 to enter the College of Nursing.

Rita Frantz, the dean of the nursing school, said the change comes as a the result of more students being eligible for enrollment out of high school.

Caroline Mallon, a UI sophomore in the college, qualified for the nursing program her freshman year. She said she understands the hike because the necessary equipment as well as opportunities to work with actual hospital patients is expensive. Still, she believes some students may be thrown by the costs.

“I’d hate to see people turning down the program or the school because they think they can’t afford it,” Mallon said.

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