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Tuition freeze necessary and doable

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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On Sept. 12, the state Board of Regents encouraged the presidents of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa to freeze tuition for the 2013-14 academic school year, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan.

This year, a tuition freeze wouldn’t just be good for students, it’s absolutely necessary — and it’s doable through an increased role in making up the funding gap through the UI Foundation.  

A tuition freeze has not occurred in at least 32 years, and the smallest increase in tuition since 1980 was by 3.2 percent in 2008. Since 2001, in-state tuition has risen from $1,453 per semester to just over $4,000 including fees.

The cost of attending the UI over the past 10 years has nearly tripled. The U.S. inflation rate since 2001 is 30.2 percent, which would suggest that in-state tuition should cost just under $2,000 this year, but, of course, it is more than double that price.

The current state of the U.S economy only makes matters worse. After graduation, students face an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and on average carry with them nearly $25,000 in debt, as previously reported by the DI.

The University of Iowa generates revenue from more than just state appropriations and tuition and fees — it also has the UI Foundation. The Foundation is a semi-private entity, which accepts gifts and endowments on behalf of the university. Last year, the Foundation saw a 12 percent increase in money raised through fundraisers, bringing the total to a whopping $213 million.

The Foundation uses this money for a variety of different programs, including student scholarships, research, and program funds.

Furthermore, some of the contributions are “restricted,” which means that the donors specified that their donations should be allocated for a specific purpose or program, but there were more than $24 million of unrestricted funds last year.

Our tuition pays for great things. The U.S. News & World Reports ranked the University of Iowa as tied for 28th best public university in the country because “Iowa offers top-notch academic programming in more than 100 areas … Students have more than 500 clubs and organizations from which to choose … [and] Iowa City, a Midwestern metropolis that has been recognized among the nation’s best for its scenery, greenery, and sustainable energy efforts.”

We have exceptional opportunities here, but student debt and unemployment rates makes education today cost more than just tuition and fees.

Foundation members, the regents, the Iowa Legislature, and university presidents must recognize that an education is an asset that should not drain the wealth of young people through tuition hikes but rather enable greater wealth in knowledge and abilities.

Education is an invaluable asset to the economy and overall welfare of the state. The UI has the funds available to maintain an excellence in academia at stabilized costs to students. Now our Foundation and regents need the encouragement to follow through.


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