Iowa Regent President Lang interested in helping graduate student tuition

BY BRIANNA JETT | MARCH 27, 2013 5:00 AM

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While funding for an in-state tuition freeze is a hot topic in the Iowa Legislature, state Board of Regents President Craig Lang said he’s looking for ways to aid graduate students.

Lang spoke to the University of Iowa’s Faculty Senate on Tuesday, thanking the faculty members for their work. He also stressed his commitment to making education affordable, hoping to bring attention to graduate students next year.

“Next year, I would like to look at the graduate students, in some way bringing the same kind of attention we’ve been able to for the undergraduates because it’s a large part of the school,” he said. “I don’t know what that will be until the numbers come in, and we put everything together.”

Lang said every issue cannot be addressed at once, and this is a step-by-step process.

“I don’t want [graduate students] to feel like we totally ignored them, but all we could handle this year were the undergraduates,” he said.

Michael Appel, the president of the UI Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, doesn’t believe that graduates students feel left out, per se, but that the focus has been primarily on undergraduate students.

“I think it shows that there is a general trend in this state that the focus is on undergraduate education, which isn’t a bad thing,” Appel said. “But our graduate and professional students do provide vital impact and resources to our state. That’s why this needs to be more of a conversation about how to support graduate and professional education.”

UI epidemiology Professor Linda Snetselaar, the president of the Faculty Senate, agreed that graduate students play a huge role at the university.

“Certainly at this university, graduate students are incredibly important,” she said. “We want to be sure that they are not forgotten as changes are happening.”

Lang said that despite being attacked by some for being “too aggressive” on some of his proposals, he plans to continue advocating for change.

“I’ve been criticized for being too bold, for being too upfront on changes that I think are important,” he said. “I think what I have learned from these past three or four weeks is that I think these changes are necessary. I think we have to continue to look for opportunities to provide a more affordable, high quality education.”

This year’s tuition freeze will affect resident undergraduate students. A 2.6 percent increase in general funds is needed from the Legislature, and Lang feels confident this will be achieved.

Next year, some of the possibilities to help graduate students Lang mentioned would include a tuition increase that is less than inflation or a general tuition freeze.

Currently, the UI reports graduate tuition for 2012-13 to be roughly $9,313 for in-state students and $25,477 fro nonresidents. These numbers are based on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and can vary from college to college.

While Appel likes the idea of a tuition freeze, he isn’t sure how officials will go about it.

“I don’t know how that would work with our colleges, because it’s expensive to instruct the students,” he said.

Appel is pleased that the conversation is beginning, but stressed that there is more work to do beyond tuition.

“Focusing on tuition is a great first step in determining how to best support graduate and professional education,” he said.

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