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Regents ponder tuition freeze future

BY BILL COONEY | JULY 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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The tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates at Iowa’s regent universities have enjoyed may face a thaw in the spring.

The tuition freeze keeps students’ tuition from rising year to year if they attend one of the state Board of Regents’ universities: Iowa State University, Northern Iowa University, and the University of Iowa.

Funding for the tuition freeze, along with all regent activities, is allocated by the state Legislature, senior communications director for the regents Josh Lehman said.

“In order to keep it in place, the board was looking for a certain level of funding to increase the tuition freeze,” he said. “The Legislature ended up giving less than the requested amount.”

Lehman said the regents would discuss a possible spring tuition freeze at their meeting Aug. 5.

The regents have previously discussed the idea of using savings from the regents’ system-wide efficiency study, TIER, to make up for losses in potential tuition revenue.

The project is focused on making Iowa’s regent universities more efficient, said Mark Braun, the UI vice president for Operational Efficiency.

“TIER is a comprehensive look at both the academic and administrative sides of the university and how to make them more efficient and effective, ‘business-wise,’ ” he said.

According to the UI TIER website, the goal of the study is to “transform our universities so they are sustainable for the long term and true to their core academic missions of education, research, and service as well as learning, discovery, and engagement.”

One of the services to come out of TIER has been the common-application portal for Iowa students, which allows prospective college students to apply to all three Iowa regent universities with a single form submitted online.

Former Regent Robert Downer said the use of TIER savings would not be an ideal solution to the tuition-freeze issue.

“For this kind of study, it’s going to cost some money on the front end to realize longer term efficiency,” he said. “It’s not just a flip of the switch where you can reduce the cost.”

Downer said he advocated for an alternative to the regents’ funding model, which was rejected by the Legislature.

“I advocated for a fallback from performance-based funding for this reason, because it would not fall on all of the regent universities equally,” he said. “I believe some of the concerns I expressed then still exist today.”

It is now up to the regents to come up with a way to continue the tuition freeze at their meeting on Aug. 5.


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