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Third tuition freeze not on the horizon

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | OCTOBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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Some University of Iowa students are in danger of paying more for college for the first time since 2012.

The state Board of Regents will discuss the 2015-16 tuition proposal at its Oct. 23 meeting in Iowa City. Notably, it includes a suggested 1.74 percent increase on undergraduate resident tuition at the UI, which has been frozen since the 2013-14 academic year.

Costs for in-state students would rise $116 to cost $6,794 per year.

Implementing another freeze would depend on increased legislative funding. Several Iowa Senate Democrats announced in August they will push for enough funding to accommodate a freeze.

“The Board of Regents might not think there’s going to be a tuition freeze, but members of the Senate Democrats are going to push for a funding level that would allow for a third-year tuition freeze,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. “There’s going to be a legislative proposal to do that outside of what the board office is doing.”

Regent President Bruce Rastetter cautioned against looking too far into the proposal for now, and he emphasized that full discussion is due soon.

“This is simply a proposal forwarded by the board office,” he said. “I would just wait until we have that meeting next week.”

In 2013, regents met with the Legislature’s fiscal committee in September to discuss raising state appropriations ahead of the tuition proposal. Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, and Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, both confirmed such a meeting did not occur this year.

However, Feenstra declined to comment on the tuition proposal.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, criticized the regents for not involving legislators enough in monetary concerns.

“They’re not being fiscally responsible with the Legislature this year,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t want to use the word irresponsible, but clearly they’re not working with everyone in developing a responsible fiscal plan.”

However, Rastetter said meetings with fiscal and appropriations legislative officials will happen late this month, saying there is “nothing different” with the process than in years’ past.

“The board is not in session,” he said. “These meetings are scheduled.”

According to regents’ communications director Sheila Koppin, the regents traditionally uses the Higher Education Price Index, which measures inflation in college costs, to gauge possible tuition increases.

For fiscal year 2016, the index notes an inflation range of 1.6 percent to 3.2 percent, compared with the proposal’s 1.75 percent.

The suggestion also includes a 1.75 percent rise in nonresident tuition of $456, which would bring the cost to $26,464. Graduate costs would increase 1.75 as well to $8,396 for in-state students and to $25,574 for out-of-state students.

Tuition now accounts for 60.7 percent of the operation budgets for the three regent universities, as opposed to 30.6 percent in 2001.

Since 2009, fees and tuition combined in Iowa have gone up 3 percent annually, compared with a national average of 5.4 percent.

UI officials declined to comment, deferring to the board office.


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