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UI financial aid official: Tuition freeze would be 'nothing but helpful'

BY STACEY MURRAY | SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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When asked about the last time tuition had a 0 percent increase at last week’s state Board of Regents meeting, University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen responded, “… Probably when Hell froze over.”

The Regents proposed an in-state tuition freeze for the 2013-14 school year during last week’s meeting, and regent officials couldn’t recall when the last tuition freeze took place. 

The last time universities froze tuition  occurred in 1981, but the freeze came before and after double-digit increases, with 1980 and 1982 having increases of 16.3 and 11.5 percent, respectively, chief business officer Patrice Sayre said.

The tuition freeze only applied to in-state students. The proposed freeze for next year would also only apply to in-state student tuition.

No regents were available for comment Monday evening.

One UI student said she fears a possible tuition freeze could be followed by a drastic jump in order to compensate for lost income.

“I just fear they’re going raise the tuition to a scary level where I might not be able to pay back my loans in six months,” UI freshman Gabby Lewis said. “Being an elementary-education major, what if I can’t pay it back?”

While the last freeze was sandwiched by double-digit raises, Mark Warner, the director of financial aid at the UI, doesn’t necessarily believe this will be the case.

“I wouldn’t speculate that that would happen,” he said.  “That was back in 1980 — those were totally different economic times.”

While students may feel a sense of uneasiness, Warner doesn’t have these worries. 

“I would strongly support a tuition freeze, there’s no question about that,” he said.  ”When tuition can be frozen, it keeps the costs as low as possible for students, and that is going to be nothing but helpful for them.”

The discussion comes on the heels of a regents meeting held last Wednesday where UI President Sally Mason and the regents called for an in-state tuition freeze for the 2013-14 academic year.

They discussed a five-year program that would ultimately lower tuition for all in-state undergraduate students. The program would phase out tuition set-asides in five years if the state provides $39.5 million to be used as financial aid.

The money the UI saves in this initiative would be used to keep the tuition low for undergraduate in-state students, saving these students nearly $1,000, Regent President Craig Lang said at the meeting on Sept. 12.

But before the tuition freeze can take place, the state Legislature would need to pass the $39.5 million for the regent universities.

“If the Legislature can do these things, the universities are going to work as hard as they can to reduce tuition for in-state undergraduate resident students,” Lang said.


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