By Emily Wangen
The state Board of Regents will not raise tuition rates for the 2018-19 academic year at its next meeting next week in Cedar Falls as originally planned.
Regent President Michael Richards said in a statement the regents need additional time to consider what the tuition levels will be for the next academic year.
The regents organized a Tuition Task Force, which included four state regents, this past summer to facilitate discussion regarding tuition rates at the three regent universities — Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Iowa. The primary goal of the task force was to find a way to offer students and families more predictability in planning their educational expenses.
Because of feedback from the Tuition Task Force meetings, Richards said it is imperative to set tuition at an appropriate amount. This way, the regents would avoid having to vote in June to increase tuition above the established rates, as the regents did this year.
“One of the key messages we heard is that students and families do not want multiple tuition increases during the year,” he said. “We agree with this, and we will not revisit 2018-19 tuition levels once they have been established.”
The regents do not know when the first reading of tuition rates will occur, but they will wait until they decide upon rates that they are comfortable proposing.
UI President Bruce Harreld emphasized the importance of setting predictable tuition rates in a September interview with The Daily Iowan.
“I talked to students, parents about tuition increases,” Harreld said. “What they’re really frustrated with is they get a surprise in the middle of the year that the state de-appropriates us, and then we have to put a tuition increase, and it’s like, ‘Whoops.’ We need to get out of that mode.”
Harreld proposed a 7.08 percent increase in resident tuition rates and a 2.08 percent increase in nonresident tuition rates each year over the next five years at the UI’s Tuition Task Force meeting in August. He said the increase is necessary to remain competitive with peer institutions, and the proposal would barely get the UI to the current median of its peer group.
To offset the burden of a tuition increase, the regents approved a proposal to request $12 million in state appropriations last month. Harreld said the UI will also boost financial aid to support students as tuition increases.
“Some of them will be eligible for merit scholarships,” Harreld told the DI in September. “Some of them will be eligible for our own fiscal, need-based scholarships. And loans, some of them federal. There’s a whole set of tools we have; I don’t think we’re going to price anyone out.”
Regent Larry McKibben, the chair of the Tuition Task Force, delivered a report of the task force’s findings during the regents’ September meeting. The report did not include any recommendations from the regents, but McKibben said the regents would have to make a decision that would help the universities remain high quality and accessible to students.
McKibben also acknowledged that many students in the regent universities voiced their concerns about high tuition rates.
“I am horrified at the tuition increase over the next five years,” UI student Sophia Coker Gunnink said in an email to the Tuition Task Force in August. “Tuition is barely affordable as is, and I want other citizens of Iowa to be able to go to university.”