Report to regents: Replace tuition set aside with state grant program

The practice of setting aside tuition dollars for student financial aid would disappear under a recommendation presented Sept. 12 to the state Board of Regents. It would be replaced, in part, by a not-yet-in-existence student aid program, funded with state dollars, that would assist only resident undergraduate students who demonstrate a financial need. The foundations affiliated with Iowa's three public universities also would be asked to conduct a five-year campaign (FY 2014-18) to raise funds for merit-based and other scholarships, also targeting resident undergraduate students.

The preliminary report and recommendations (PDF) are on the board's website. Iowans are invited to provide input on the proposal prior to the board's Oct. 24-25 meeting, when a final decision is expected. Comments may be emailed to

The proposed initial request to the state for a tuition grant program is $39.5 million (a slight increase over the $37.1 million in institutional aid provided to resident undergraduates with financial need at the three universities last year. That aid covered less than one-fifth of those students' financial need).

Through tuition set aside funds this year, Iowa State will award nearly $62 million in need-based and merit aid to undergraduates, both resident and non-resident.

Iowa is the only state in the country without a state need-based aid program for students attending its public universities, regents staff member Diana Gonzalez told board members. It does have such a program – nearly $50 million -- for Iowa students attending Iowa's private universities.

At the other end of the spectrum, almost 97 percent of the state of Arizona's need-based aid dollars go to students attending public universities there.

Regent David Miles said it's important that Iowans know that their public universities will be accessible to Iowa families with financial need.

"We have to remain open and affordable," he said.

Regent Bruce Rastetter asked for a commitment from the three foundations on their fundraising by the October meeting.

He said firm commitments from the state and the university foundations will result in a decrease in tuition for in-state students.

Board president Craig Lang called the recommendation "a win not just for students in need, but for all in-state students."

Goal: Flat tuition next year

With another eye on college affordability for Iowa families, Lang asked Iowa's three public universities to consider a zero increase in tuition for resident undergraduate students next year. Lang's proposal excludes differential tuition plans. The universities will submit 2013-14 tuition and fees proposals to the board at its October meeting; a final decision could occur at the December meeting.

Lang said University of Iowa president Sally Mason suggested the idea this spring. He said presidents Steven Leath (Iowa State) and Ben Allen (University of Northern Iowa) indicated their willingness to include the possibility in their campuses' tuition discussions in the coming weeks.

Lang said flat tuition for resident undergraduate students would send a message to Gov. Terry Branstad and state legislators, and strengthen the universities' request for incremental state increases to their operating budgets (see below).

Efficiency consultant

Noting that the board is "happy with the progress our universities have made" in the area of efficiency and productivity, Lang directed board executive director Robert Donley to develop a request for proposals and outline the scope of work for a consultant to review the regent universities and identify further possibilities for saving resources, achieving efficiencies and collaborating among the three.

FY14 state appropriations request

The board will seek a $4.4 million (2.6 percent) increase in Iowa State's operations appropriation from the state for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2013. The request is equivalent to the projected median of the Higher Education Price Index for FY14. By law, the board must submit funding requests for next year to the state by Oct. 1. The governor and Legislature use the requests in building their proposed state budgets.

Iowa State also is requesting incremental funding of 2.6 percent (a total of about $2.5 million) for units or programs that receive a direct state appropriation, including the Agriculture Experiment Station, Cooperative Extension, Leopold Center, ISU Research Park, Small Business Development Centers, IPRT, Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and livestock disease research. The largest of these, a $762,364 request, would complete the Iowa Legislature's intent to fund the state's only public veterinary diagnostic lab at a level of $4 million annually.

Additionally, Iowa State will ask for $7.5 million in new state funding to support additional research efforts in the bioeconomy. The funds would support world-class research facilities, new research programs and the preparation of additional grant applications.

The board is asking for permanent funding for the $3 million Regents Innovation Fund (Iowa State's share is $1.05 million) and continued funding ($4.7 million) for the three-university STEM initiative. And, as noted above, the board will ask state government for $39.5 million to set up a tuition grant program for in-state undergraduate students who attend one of the three regent universities.

Included in the board's capital (building) funding request to the state for FY14 is $5 million to begin planning for a new biosciences building at Iowa State. A similar request was not funded for the current fiscal year.

The 2011 Legislature approved $60.4 million in state appropriations over four years for the second phase of ISU's Biorenewables Complex. FY14 will be the third year of that funding commitment.

Wilson Hall, golf practice facility

In other Iowa State business, the board:

  • Approved the residence department's request to move ahead with planning on an estimated $2.1 million project to install a fire sprinkler system in Wilson Hall and convert one residential room on each of the building's 10 floors into a kitchenette.
  • Approved the athletics department's request to amend its lease agreement for an indoor golf practice facility in south Ames. The developer and landlord, Dickson Jensen, is adding chipping and putting surfaces to the facility, increasing its size. The annual lease will increase $23,000, to about $260,000.