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CEDAR FALLS — University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook welcomed the Iowa Board of Regents to campus Wednesday by talking about how UNI has found success at lowering student debt.

The regents are holding a two-day series of meetings. They continue at 9:45 a.m. today in the Slife Ballroom of the Commons building.

The meeting will begin with public comment and conclude with the naming of a new executive director for the board of regents.

The meeting will also be streamed live at http://www.iowaregents.edu/.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Nook offered board members three charts that demonstrated the university’s success.

They showed UNI has fewer students borrowing — down from a 2011-12 high of 69 percent to 60.4 percent in 2016-17; fewer students graduating with debt — down from a high of 80 percent in 2009-10 to 70.1 percent now; and that ongoing decline is happening while nationally student debt is on the rise.

Nook attributed the university’s success to a mini-course for students called “live like a student” and its offering loan counseling to students who are borrowing.

“It’s really, I think, it’s that loan counseling piece that’s really driven down this loan debt in particular,” Nook told the board.

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Nook said the university is also looking at other means of lowering student costs, including moving to online textbooks.

He said the university’s success at getting students to graduate in four years also keeps costs down. Nook said at many similar institutions, about half of students who make up the six-year graduation rate actually graduate in four years. At UNI, that number is closer to two-thirds of students.

“The quality still has to be there, so yeah, we won’t try to necessarily drive this down … but we do have to make sure that we’ve got everything in place so the student can finish in four years,” Nook said.

The board had previously said it would take up the first reading of proposed tuition rates during its October meeting, but regents President Michael Richards released a statement last week saying the first reading would be delayed.

The board also took the following actions:

Members held a closed session for about 75 minutes to interview the only finalist for the executive director position, Mark Braun. Braun currently serves as the regents’ chief operating officer. The board will officially name the replacement for former executive director Bob Donley during its meeting today.

The board officially approved the hiring of Andrew Morse as UNI’s assistant to the president for board and governmental relations.

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