DES MOINES — The Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously approved tuition hikes for the fall after what one regent called “the worst state government attack on our three public universities that I can ever remember.”
Costs are going up for all students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa in response to legislative cuts in general education appropriations since the start of the 2017 budget year totaling more than $40 million — a slide only recently slowed by an $8.3 million bump for the new budget year starting July 1.
The campuses have absorbed two consecutive rounds of mid-year cuts with pay freezes. They’ve delayed maintenance, eliminated scholarship programs and froze new construction on the University of Iowa campus — in addition to raising tuition.
The rate hikes now official for this fall amount to 3.8 percent bumps for UI and ISU resident undergraduates and 2.8 percent at UNI. The increase equates to $284 more for UI and ISU resident undergrads and $209 at UNI — totaling annual base tuition rates of $7,770 at UI, $7,740 at ISU and $7,665 at UNI.
Adding in mandatory fees, along with room and board costs — also going up — brings the average estimated cost of attendance for a resident undergraduate next academic year to about $21,369 — $533 more than this year.
And many students will be paying much more, as the board in recent years has backed differential tuition models that charge students more for being in costlier programs.
Neither the UI nor UNI differential tuition models face significant changes under the newly-approved rates — with the UI 3.8 percent increase for residents and 2.1 percent increase for nonresidents similarly applying to those differentiated programs, including business, engineering, medicine and nursing.
But Thursday the board gave Iowa State the go-ahead to expand its differential tuition. Under the new model, the portion of undergraduates paying higher rates will grow from 34 percent in fall 2017 to 56 percent this fall. The portion of graduate students paying higher rates will reach 74 percent, up from 45 percent.
The impact, for some, amounts to an increase as high as nearly 14 percent for the upcoming year. And Iowa State additionally is enacting a $542 increase for all international students — the final installment of a total $1,556 increase for those students over three years.
Regent Larry McKibben said if state support continues to decline, driving university revenue needs up, this year’s tuition increases will pale in comparison with those coming.
“Iowans need to understand that this is probably the low side of tuition in the future, in the next years to come, if we do not get any more governance support from the state of Iowa,” McKibben said.
He urged Iowa voters to give this issue priority in the upcoming midterm election.
“I look forward to hearing the candidates say that,” McKibben said. “What are you going to do about higher education and our three great universities? And what are you going to do to bring them back to level.”
They are not level now, he said, and that is driving faculty to other universities in other states. After declining to offer mandatory pay raises in the last budget year, Iowa State saw its highest faculty resignation total in a decade this year — 44, up from 24 the previous year.
University of Iowa recently announced it is freezing pay increases until at least January — after it can assess student enrollment, tuition revenue and state revenue reports.
“We have lost great folks, and now we are going to have to raise tuition,” McKibben said, noting that will persist “as long as we continue what I believe is, in my time on the board, the worst state government attack on our three public universities that I can ever remember.”
He said the state is “taking our three great universities downhill.”
“To see that happen is extremely difficult,” McKibben said.