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UI medical school student government eyes lower tuition

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | AUGUST 22, 2012 6:30 AM

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Lowering the costs of tuition is No. 1 on the priority list of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Student Government.

Council President Shady Henien proposed the idea titled "Invest in a Student's Tuition" to the council at their first meeting of the year Tuesday night. He said he wanted to create something that was "out of the box" to curb tuition rates for medical students.

"Tuition is out of control, and I think all students can relate to that," Henien said. "I was thinking of some other ways to decrease the cost of tuition. You get loans from the bank or the government, and those interest rates are pretty high."

2012-2013 tuition rates for the Carver College of Medicine range from $50,508-$56,591 for residents and $66,572-$72,655 for nonresidents after fees, room and board, and other additional fees are included.

Henien's proposal was to create a system in which investors will put money into a general fund that students will use to pay for medical school. After students graduate, they would repay the money with an interest rate that competes with banks that would go back to the original investor. All money left over would then go back into the fund or to the medical school.

Henien told student councilors though details need to be worked out, the program has the potential to be successful.

"We need to iron [details] out," he said. "If we can implement this now, it will be huge for years to come."

But those details that have yet to be figured out caused many council officials to pose questions about the program. Those concerns included students paying the loan as well as a separate government loan at the same time and who will govern the money in the fund.

Nate Jung, diversity committee co-head, brought up concerns about the program taking away from a scholarship fund already in place within the school.

"I like the idea; I just think the way it's implemented needs to be very carefully thought out," he said. "I'm kind of afraid that if you implement this that until the fund gets big enough to start making money, the scholarship fund will be depleted. My concern is it would disproportionately affect people who win scholarships."

Henien assured Jung the program is not designed to be an attack on the scholarship fund.

Linda Bissell, the director of financial services for the medical school, said she would like to think the voice of the medical students can make a change in the efforts to lower tuition rates.

"If they get in front of the right people, they will have an influence with the Board of Regents or state legislators," she said.

Bissell did point out that even though tuition rates are out of the control of the financial aid office, they have made efforts to help ease the financial burden.

"[We've] done more fundraising and made efforts to identify outside scholarship support and things like that," she said. "We've tried to have a differential increase for nonresidents and residents or see a dollar amount and have it be the same for residents and nonresidents, but some of it is out of our control."

Bissell said in years past, tuition growth has averaged out at around an annual increase of 5 percent annually.

"I think tuition has increased dramatically in the last 10 years," Bissell said. "Possibly close to doubling for Iowa residents."

Jonathan Schultz, a medical representative for the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, said he thinks the program is a unique alternative, and he will present the idea to his council.

"I think [tuition rates] affect all schools — all professional programs," Schultz said. "I think obviously all the details and specifics need to be worked out economically. It's a good idea to collaborate with other graduate programs as well that can lend more of an expertise in the [economic] area."

Henien said the program has the potential, if successful, to spread to other schools.
"If the model works here, it will work everywhere," he said. "At the very least, if this forces banks and it forces the government to decrease their interest rates, we will have succeeded."


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