Regent vote on proposed tuition increase set for July 18

Meeting last week on campus, the state Board of Regents took its first look at a $7.3 million addition to the 2016-17 Iowa State tuition rates it approved in December; a final decision will come on July 18, just five weeks before fall semester begins. The proposed increases include $300 for resident undergraduates, who previously were looking at a tuition freeze; $100 for nonresident undergraduates and all graduate students; and $50 for all veterinary medicine students. The summer adjustments come in response to an increase in state operating support for next year that was 27 percent of what university leaders sought.

Student leaders were invited to share comments with board members. ISU student government president Cole Staudt told them about specific students struggling to pay living expenses and stay in school, but he also said he doesn't blame the universities for seeking additional tuition revenue.

"We need the revenue this proposal will create," he said. "If we want a high-quality education with all the services our students expect, we have to work for it -- at the capitol." And he pledged to help deliver that message to legislators for the next budget cycle.

The increases the board approved in December and these summer increases would generate an estimated $33.7 million in new revenue in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Iowa State leaders sought an $8.2 million increase to the university's general university operating appropriation for next year, but received $2.2 million in additional funds.

"None of us as regents like days like today," said board president Bruce Rastetter. "We know what [tuition increases] do to students and their families. This board is committed to accessibility, affordability and improving the quality of education, and sometimes we don't emphasize that third part as much as we ought to."

Rastetter also reminded his audience that the board has said repeatedly that savings realized from its TIER (Transparent, Inclusive Efficiency Review) initiative would be reinvested in the universities to improve the quality of programs -- "not to alter tuition."

Rastetter said he intends to support the proposed increases in the July vote. Calling the universities' spring deliberations "thoughtful," he concluded, "We have a responsibility to make sure that the quality at these institutions does not slip backward."

TIER update: Academic business cases

The board received a progress report on the three academic business cases in the TIER efficiency project from campus coordinators. University professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering Steve Freeman fills that role at Iowa State.

Case 1: Grow distance learning opportunities

This fall semester, the three universities will pilot a two-year online course-sharing project. Students at any school can access any of 15 courses offered through this initiative. Iowa State's slate of offerings is:

  • CPRE 530, Network Protocols and Security
  • NREM 120, Introduction to Renewable Resources
  • FSHN 342, World Food Issues
  • HDFS 102, Individual and Family Life Development
  • HDFS 283, Personal and Family Finance

A sixth, AER E 261, Introduction to Aircraft Performance and Design, will be offered in conjunction with a University of Iowa course on unmanned aircraft systems. Course sharing and cross-enrollment among the schools are not new, but participation has been modest. In this pilot program, the universities are trying to make enrollment seamless. Students enroll in "placeholder" courses at their home university so billing and financial aid stay local, but their academic advisers will enroll them in the actual course.

A primary audience is students already taking online courses so logging into a different online course management system isn't an impediment.

Case 2: Use classroom and lab spaces more efficiently

Freeman told board members that Iowa State's course availability group has worked effectively for years with the room scheduling staff and developed its own model to ensure courses have enough seats to meet student demand, even with increasing enrollments. That model was refined this spring to improve the accuracy of projections more than one year out. ISU also is bringing new classrooms online, remodeling existing spaces so they're more flexible and meet current demands and expanding campus online testing centers to meet student demands for that service. Lastly, he said new student information software puts more information on one platform for better efficiency.

Case 3: Enrollment management (improve retention and four- and six-year graduation rates)

Freeman told the board there are many initiatives around campus, but focused his update on two examples:

  • ISU completed a one-year pilot using predictive analysis of data to better advise students. Starting this fall, the predictive analytics software will be available to all academic advisers on campus.
  • Iowa State is expanding its involvement with the University Innovation Alliance, 11 research universities working and learning together how to improve retention and graduation rates for low-income students and first-generation college students. The alliance received a first-in-the-world U.S. Department of Education grant to track entering students for four years to demonstrate the use of predictive analytics to encourage student success.

TIER update: Procurement business case

Mark Braun, the board's chief operating officer, reported that the Huron consulting group, which since last fall has been assisting the universities' purchasing departments with technology recommendations and vendor contract negotiations, has completed its work in four commodity areas: office supplies, computers, computer peripherals and food. Huron's work on three remaining commodity areas (scientific supplies, janitorial supplies, and maintenance, repair and operations) should be completed around Jan. 1, Braun said.

Successor to TIER

Noting the accomplishments and efficiencies found in 2.5 years of the TIER initiative, Regent Larry McKibben said the board and regent institutions "need to be diligent in our continuous quality improvement" and announced CQI as the "next generation" to TIER. The savings will be reinvested back into the schools.

Policies that impact university business

Braun also reported on an extensive rewrite of the board's policy manual. The proposed changes collapse the manual from 11 chapters to four and eliminate both duplication with or inconsistencies with other policy documents or recommendations, including Iowa Code, other state of Iowa departments and national higher education practices. Several proposed changes that impact business at Iowa State include:

  • Raise the bid threshold for purchases from $25,000 to $50,000
  • Raise the threshold requiring board permission to begin construction project planning from $2 million to $5 million. (Project budget still comes to the board, but initial request to begin wouldn't be needed for projects under $5 million.)
  • Raise the threshold requiring board approval of construction schematic designs from $1 million to $2 million