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Board of Regents considered renewing an in-state tuition freeze amongst other tuition proposals

BY MEGAN DEPPE | OCTOBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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While an official decision has not yet been made, the discussion over next year’s potential undergraduate tuition freeze and a proposed tuition cut in the College of Law went more in depth at the state Board of Regents meeting on Thursday.

The regents viewed presentations from the University of Iowa Student Government President Katherine Valde, as well as a statement from law Dean Gail Agrawal and Governor Terry Branstad.

The law school’s proposal would involve a tuition cut for nonresident students of nearly $8,000 — tuition would drop from its current level of $47,252 to $39,500.

This discussion follows a proposal from the regents to continue the undergraduate tuition freeze, which started in this academic year. The tuition freeze currently sets in-state base tuition at $6,678, with mandatory fees pushing the price to $8,061.

Valde expressed the UISG’s support for the tuition freeze. She said the UISG had visited several state legislators over the summer and that the legislators had heard from parents and students about how glad they about freezing tuition. “I believe that freezing tuition not only has a tangible benefit for students in terms of the bottom line, but symbolically, it sends an important message that our state values higher education,” Valde said.

Branstad agreed that a possible continuation of tuition freeze would be a positive thing. “It would certainly be something we’d love to be able to do, because I understand the last time we had two years in a row without a tuition increase for undergrad residents was 1975, and that was a long time ago.”

Both the decision to extend the undergraduate tuition freeze and tuition cuts to the UI College of Law will be made at the next regents’ meeting, Dec. 4. Both decisions will affect the undergraduate class and law-school class of 2014-2015.

Discussion regarding the reduction of law tuition came in part because of the high tuition cost in comparison with other peer schools. The law school’s nonresident tuition numbers nearly the third highest in its peer group of 11 schools, while its resident tuition is eighth of 11.

The tuition cut is being requested in an attempt to attract more nonresident students. “We think a lower nonresident tuition would send a clear signal in the marketplace that we are responding to national concern expressed about the high cost of legal education,” Agrawal said.

There has also been more than a 38 percent national decline in law-school enrollment since 2010. The UI school has seen a 24 percent decrease in the same period of time. “The challenge that we face, of course, is that we need to take fiscally responsible action in bad times, without causing reparable, long-term harm to the institution,”Agrawal said.

She also stated that some law schools were lowering their credentials to maintain their class size. The UI, however, is creating more programs for law students instead. “A number of schools, like Iowa, have chosen to hold firm to their quality criteria,” said Associate Dean Todd Pettys. “This year’s incoming class is just as qualified as the prior years, just smaller.”

As well as beginning to attract new students, the UI law school is considering the possibility of a shrinking faculty. “We’re not, I think it’s fair to say, a young faculty,” Agrawal said. “In the next year or so, we expect at least eight retirements.”

Agrawal noted that several vacancies in the faculty have been left unfilled, which has decreased the staff size. The real decline in applicants to the law school came last year with a 50 percent decline in nonresident applications. There was also a decline in in the number of Iowa applicants.

“The reduction in applications for enrollment is a market signal that out-of-state tuition is too high,” Pettys said. However, the UI law school is above the national average in placing students in full-time jobs. Agrawal said 36 percent of last year’s first class took their first jobs in Iowa.

“These are very challenging times for the College of Law,” Agrawal said. “We appreciate the support we get from the central university, we appreciate all you do for our university.”


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