AMES — The state Board of Regents on Thursday approved a freeze on tuition at the University of Northern Iowa for next school year.
Students at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University weren’t as lucky.
UNI’s resident undergraduate rates will remain at $7,665. The board also set fees at UNI, projecting the total cost of attendance — including tuition, fees, room and board — at $21,247 for the year.
“This is a great day for our students and the university,” UNI President Mark Nook said in a statement after the board’s tuition vote. “It’s evident from the board’s approval that they understand our role in educating and investing in Iowa students who then give back to their state.”
The board kept all tuition rates at UNI frozen — as the Cedar Falls campus, which is more reliant on Iowa students, faces a different set of circumstances than it’s sister institutions, including a stagnant pool of Iowa high schoolers and peer institutions in neighboring states with lower rates.
UNI’s tuition and fees currently rank third lowest among its peers — although its rates are far closer to its in-state research peers than the rates of other schools like it.
UNI was able to hold down tuition after receiving the full $4 million increase in state appropriations it requested — making it the only one of Iowa’s three public universities to have its full demand met.
But attending the UI and ISU became more expensive Thursday. The board officially approved tuition increases after weighing a desire to keep rates affordable with a need to generate enough revenue to support campus missions amid state cuts.
Base tuition rates for resident undergraduates at UI and ISU will increase 3.9% this fall — from $7,770 to $8,073 at Iowa and from $7,740 to $8,042 at Iowa State. Rates for undergraduates from outside Iowa will increase more at Iowa State — nearly 5%, or $1,086.
Nonresident rates for UI undergraduates will increase 1%, or $300, although Iowa’s nonresident undergraduate costs still are much higher — $30,036, compared with ISU’s $23,230.
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And many students on both campuses will see even bigger increases than those base bumps this fall — as regents approved a range of differential tuition rates for students pursuing costlier degrees, like those in business, health administration, dentistry, agriculture, animal science and engineering.
The board also approved fees for UI and ISU, projecting the total cost of attendance — including tuition, fees, room and board and other expenses — at $23,188 for a resident undergraduate at UI and $21,939 at ISU.
The board had asked lawmakers to increase general fund appropriations for the universities by $18 million — allowing $7 million each for UI and ISU and $4 million for UNI. Although Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended full funding, the GOP-led Legislature instead approved a $12 million increase, and the board split it evenly — leaving ISU and UI each $3 million short of their demand.
Regents last year unveiled a five-year tuition plan promising annual increases of at least 3 percent, and potentially higher, depending on state support.
UI President Bruce Harreld in a statement after the vote said his administration has and will continue to devote resources to student success.
“We are committed to increasing our first-year retention rates and improving the four-year graduation rate to minimize student debt,” Harreld said. “It’s important to remember that a student’s investment in their collegiate education will be the second-largest investment in their life and will produce the greatest return on investment through lifetime earnings.”
No students signed up to speak at the regents meeting. Student leaders did speak at the board’s first reading of tuition rates last month — voicing frustration with declining state support.
In both spring 2017 and spring 2018, lawmakers cut funding — midyear — by tens of millions, forcing the schools to institute last-minute cuts. A UI news release on tuition increases Thursday reported the school spends about the same amount per student as it did 20 years ago, when indexed for inflation.
Meanwhile, according to the university, overall state support has fallen so far that tuition now accounts for two-thirds of the UI’s general education fund, a reversal from 2001, when appropriations made up most of UI general education support.