The board that governs the three state universities today approved a 6% increase in tuition for the next school year. The also voted to refund the $100 tuition surcharge approved for the spring semester of this year.
Regents Michael Gartner and Ruth Harkin voted against the tuition increase. Gartner says the latest economic figures don’t show much improvement in the state’s financial situation.
“Life is still very, very difficult for the families that are trying to send their sons and daughters to the universities,” Gartner says. He says when you figure in tuition and fees, the increase adds up to an 8.7% increase at the University of Iowa. he says the cost is higher at other schools too when the fees are figured in. The governor is asking lawmakers to give the regents back 31-million dollars for this year’s budget, and Gartner says if all that money went to tuition, there would not have to be an increase.
“Although I realize life is very tough at the universities from a financial standpoint, I do believe…that it is easier for the universities as institutions to swallow this hardship than it is for the parents of the Iowa students, for that reason, I will oppose the motion that is on the board,” Gartner said.
Harkin said she is voting no, and stands with regent Gartner in his comments about the economy of the state and the families of the state. The Board of Regents staff told boardmembers it would take a 26% to make up the entire 131-million dollar cut in the regents budget. The presidents of the student bodies at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and University of Northern Iowa said they felt the tuition increase was reasonable in light of the budget situation. Regent Bonnie Campbell said that is why she is voting for the increase.
Campbell says, “I’m going to vote for this, but it has kept me awake many nights, as I’m sure it has you, and I am persuaded by the student leaders, and I no doubt will hear from their parents. It is a very painful vote, I must say.” Regent Robert Downer said he would vote for the increase, but still has concerns.
Downer says he has heard the information that this increase is relatively low compared to peer institutions, but he says they also need to look at income levels in the state of Iowa, which he says are low compared to schools in other states. Downer says one other thing that concerns him is the need to find more efficiencies and eliminate duplication to save money.
Downer says they need to look at “consolidation of programs across institutional lines where those programs at individual universities don’t have critical mass.” He says they can’t try to deliver all the educational services that they deliver in traditional ways. Regents president David Miles said this is the third time they have looked at tuition increases since he has been on the board, and the other two increases were 25-year record lows.
Miles says he doesn’t take the idea of increasing fees lightly, but says if the governor’s budget is approved as submitted they are looking at 132-million dollars less in appropriations than in 2009. “And that is very real.” Miles says this increase now could help hold off bigger financial problems later.
“I am very concerned that if we do not do this, what I believe is at the minimum at six-percent, we will harm the quality of the institutions and will find ourselves a year form now looking at something even more in terms of increases and making a difficult system even worse,” Miles says. The final vote to increase tuition was 7-2. Miles says the board is able to refund the tuition surcharge because of the extra money the governor has asked be given back to the regents.
The vote to refund the surcharge was unanimous. The Iowa Legislature must approve the governor’s request to give the regents the additional $31-million for the surcharge to be refunded to students.
See the tuition information for each school here: Tuition word document.