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Regents approve historic tuition freeze

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | DECEMBER 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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Some University of Iowa students could graduate without ever seeing a tuition increase.

The state Board of Regents approved a history-making third-consecutive tuition freeze for undergraduate resident students at all three regent universities on Wednesday.

UI President Sally Mason and Gov. Terry Branstad have voiced support as well.

“This tuition freeze will benefit our customers, the students and their families,” Regent Larry McKibben said during the telephonic meeting.

At the UI, tuition would remain at $6,678 for those students. Combined with mandatory fees, they would pay $8,104 in the next academic year.

The three universities would lose $4.5 million in revenue. Tuition increases on all other students would raise revenues by $10 million.

Tuition has spiked over the past 15 years as state support has fallen dramatically.

State appropriations accounted for nearly 64 percent of general university funding in fiscal 2001.

Those appropriations now make up approximately 35 percent, with the difference falling on students in the form of tuition and fees.

All eight regents voted in favor of the proposal, but Regent Robert Downer noted several concerns.

“It is clear to me that this freeze will not fall equally on all three universities,” he said, referring to the University of Northern Iowa, which relies more heavily on undergraduate tuition compared with the UI and Iowa State University.

UNI officials have taken issue with a freeze.

Regents have said that the freeze could be covered by savings through its ongoing efficiency review of the three universities, but Downer was wary about that.

“These savings may not be realized in time to cover the effect of the freeze, but my principal concern in that regard is that these savings would be redeployed within the institutions from which they were derived, and I don’t think that the proposed freeze has been the choice of the universities,” he said.

The review is expected to save $40 million to $80 million in annual savings.

Now the issue will travel to the state Legislature, as legislators will vote on the regents’ request for a 1.75 percent increase in general appropriations, falling in line with inflation.

Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have publicly supported a resident tuition freeze.

“That’s great news,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, about the regents’ decision. “Now, I hope the Board of Regents comes to its senses about the funding model,” referring to the regents’ controversial new way to dole out state funds to the universities, under which the UI stands to lose tens of millions of dollars over a few years.

Although legislators do not have to approve the mechanics of the new model itself, they do hold the purse and determine how much to allocate.

Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, said the freeze is a “good move” and reflects economization from the regents, which he said has been lacking.

Officials and student leaders have voiced concern about whether a freeze now will lead to heavy increases in the future.

“I think it’s the board’s perspective, and it certainly was mine, that we ought to deal with the reality of today, which allows us to freeze tuition, and also coupled with the TIER study to try to avoid future increases at a higher rate,” said Regent President Bruce Rastetter.

Undergraduate nonresidents at the UI will pay $26,464, or $456 more. With fees, those students will be expected to pay $27,890.

Meanwhile, resident graduate students will pay $189 more or $9,876, while nonresident graduates will pay $485 more or $27,054 — with both totals including fees.

Regent Hannah Walsh has said the regents still need to heavily consider costs for all students attending Iowa universities.

“We must engage each of our universities in a comprehensive affordability review for the benefit of all our students: in-state, out-of-state, undergraduate, graduate, and professional,” she said.


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