Regents approve freeze
As anticipated, the state Board of Regents voted to freeze in-state undergraduate students' tuition at Iowa's three public universities for a second-straight year on Wednesday meeting, pending approval from the state Legislature.
A separate amendment was presented at the meeting to reduce the University of Iowa College of Law's tuition by 16.4 percent for both in-state and out-of-state students.
The regents were expected to vote on the recent request of the UI College of Law — to decrease tuition rates for nonresident students — but Regent Katie Mulholland amended the request to include in-state students, saying she was disappointed Iowans were not included in the original proposal.
"This is a fairness thing," she said. "My proposal is that what is fair for one group must be fair for the other group."
As an alumnus of the UI, Regent Larry McKibben, said, he was also disappointed in the original proposal.
"Why do we shop on Black Friday? Because the prices are decreased," he said. "I support Regent Mulholland, and I hope this encourages our Iowa students to come to the University of Iowa."
UI out-of-state residents pursuing traditional law degrees will see a drop from $47,252 to $39,500.
UI President Sally Mason supported approval for the board's decision.
"The University of Iowa's law school has long been recognized for providing very high-quality education at a reasonable cost," she said in a statement. "The board's action today to reduce tuition strengthens the school's position as one of the best values in legal education."
Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said the decision was made under the umbrella of making education more affordable for all students, both in- and out-of-state. He said it is the first step for tuition change across the board.
"The Legislature and the government need to stop being candy-asses and fund the Board of Regents appropriately," he said.
The only regent to vote against the amendment, Robert Downer, expressed his concerns about the long-term effects of cutting in-state tuition at the UI law school.
"This needs to be looked on a multiple year basis," he said. "I am concerned about this because of the budgetary impact."
Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, said he hopes the regents "give these tuition cuts some time," because he believes they may be setting themselves up to creating a precedent in which tuition cuts would be considered if there is a drop of enrollment at other graduate colleges.
"It's important, especially in tough budget times to keep the quality of our state universities," Johnson said.
Todd Pettys, the law-school associate dean for faculty, said the college has been ranked nationally even before the tuition reductions.
"My view is that with these tuition reductions we have become a spectacularly great value in the legal education," he said. "We are now a spectacular value that you can take with your employers from coast to coast and pay even less for it."
The final vote for the tuition freeze for the 2014-15 school year will wait on the Iowa Legislature approval to come through with increased funding.
Shannon Holmberg, currently in the application process the UI law school, said she believes a program that offers an "outstanding education" at a lower cost would draw applications.
"I think anytime a programs is able to offer an outstanding education at a lower cost people will be drawn to that great value," she said. "I think this decision will keep the cost of UI College of Law very competitive and encourage people to give Iowa a closer look.
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