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Inglis: Freeze tuition, cut costs

BY MCCULLOUGH INGLIS | SEPTEMBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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The University of Iowa had a budgeted revenues and expenses of approximately $3 billion for fiscal 2012. Given the enormity of the university’s expenses, it comes as little wonder that the debate over tuition seems impossible to resolve.

To paint the problem further, state officials raised tuition by 5 percent for in-state students in fiscal 2012. At the same time, revenue from tuition only covered 58.4 percent of the general-education fund’s budgeted revenues.  Against this backdrop, the core conflict over college expenses becomes clear. The UI is simultaneously an educational endeavor and a business. It seeks to teach its students the value of the life of the mind, but to do so, it must put a market value on this otherwise intangible good.

Caught between these two contradictory impulses, students need to rethink what we want out of the deal. Does college need to be a top-of-the-line residential experience, complete with a recreation center that boasts a lazy river, a 25-person spa, and bubble boards? Or could the weights, exercise machines, and competitive pool suffice? Do we need dorms that come with cleaning services and full board at the cost of $9,170 a year? Or could we change the housing aspect of college and integrate more fully with the community, accepting more responsibility and saving money at the same time?

As the $3 billion figure for the university’s budget suggests, there is no easy answer. Jobs would be at stake, the college experience would be in question, and student life would be of top concern. As the debate about rising costs of education continues, however, it is time to rethink college at a macro level instead of a merely budgetary one. Whether tuition rates rise or are temporarily frozen, it is time to move away from the summer-camp aspect of college and remember the real reason we are here. Only then can we truly get an education.


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