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REACH program tuition prices questioned and defended

BY MEGAN DEPPE | OCTOBER 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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A member of the state Board of Regents has called for the University of Iowa REACH program to lower its tuition, but officials from the program said it’s expensive to provide the support REACH needs.

Regent Ruth Harkin raised her concerns at the Oct. 24 meeting and asked REACH officials to consider reducing tuition or offering scholarships to offset costs.

“This program was passed by the regents due to a need, and I’m just afraid that we’re pricing ourselves out of this particular market,” Harkin said. “I continue to be concerned at the high rates we are charging these challenged students.”

The UI REACH program is a two-year, transitional certificate program for students with numerous intellectual, cognitive and learning disabilities.

In-state students in the program pay $25,918 for tuition and fees, and out-of-state students pay $43,173 — roughly $5,000 higher than undergraduate students.

After students are offered a place in the program, they cannot be officially admitted until they provide proof of their financial ability to participate.

Scholarships are available for families to help finance the program, which can pay up to 75 percent of an resident student’s tuition and 50 percent for nonresident student’s tuition, but Harkin still finds fault with the cost of tuition.

“As a matter of fact, if you look at another fee, you can get an executive M.B.A. on a two-year program for less than you could do in two years as a challenged student under the REACH program,” Harkin said.

While the UI provides the facilities and office space for the program, it is not directly funded by the state. REACH funding is supported by tuition, as well as individual and corporate contributions.

The majority of the tuition is funneled into staffing, including specially trained resident assistants for the dorms, on-call administrators, and teachers.

According to an analysis done by the UI College of Business, the UI’s program has the lowest resident tuition of the eight schools studied with similar programs, excluding a program funded entirely through state dollars.

The same could not be said for the nonresident tuition. Three other programs had lower nonresident tuition than REACH.

Zac Minn, a first-year student in the program, said the tuition was a fair price for what students receive.

“I feel that [tuition] is perfectly fine, because students have a chance to go to college, which they may not have had before,” Minn said.

Minn said had he not attended the UI REACH program, he probably would have been in a similar program at home, but he wouldn’t have gained the same skill set. In a similar program, he would have only been taught to do a particular job, while the REACH program is teaching him how to work in a job environment.

“I think it’s giving me the education I am paying for,” Minn said.

REACH director Pamela Ries agreed that tuition is expensive but said the program does what it can with its limited resources.

“If we could have another funding source, we’d be glad to drop the tuition,” Ries said. “But we are completely self-serving.”

While Harkin has expressed her views, she hopes to see changes in the tuition costs.

“It just seems that we’re so out of proportion here that we’re challenging students that come in already challenged,” Harkin said.


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