Regents adjust tuition upward for second summer

Without discussion, the state Board of Regents approved a second fall tuition increase of $216 per Iowa State student at its June 8 meeting. That's an additional 3 percent for resident undergraduates and between 0.4 percent (veterinary medicine nonresidents) and 2.5 percent (graduate residents) for all others over the 2017-18 rates the board initially approved in December. Combined, the increases create a 5 percent hike ($358) for Iowa State resident undergraduates and a 4.1 percent hike ($830) for nonresident undergraduates over fall 2016. The combined increase is $470 (5.5 percent) for resident graduate students and $870 (4 percent) for nonresident graduate students above fall 2016 tuition rates.

Tuition task force

Following the tuition vote, the board's ad hoc tuition task force held its first meeting and received a presentation on national tuition trends from Robert Toutkoushian, professor of higher education at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on the economics of higher education and he consults with universities around the country. His observations about the state of Iowa included:

  • It's not typical to have similar or identical tuition among a state's public universities (research universities tend to have higher tuitions)
  • Even when state appropriations increase, they fail to keep pace with higher education costs. Appropriation declines lead to rising tuitions.
  • State appropriations to higher education fell from 11.1 percent of the state budget in FY99 to 6.8 percent in the year that ends June 30
  • Tuition prices at the regent universities are lower than most of their peer schools. That, coupled with a state demand for higher education (rising high school graduate numbers), diminishes the urgency (compared to other states) to increase financial aid to attract students.
  • Universities compete for students in different markets -- for example, state of residence, ability to pay, academic merit, graduate vs. undergrad
  • A university must know who its competitors are. Similarities among competitors might include: geographic (markets are mostly regional), mission and academic programs, selectivity/prestige

A peer comparison


2016-17 tuition

Penn State (highest in peer group)


Iowa State (lowest in peer group)


Peer group average (excluding ISU)


Board president Michael Richards said Thursday's presentation was the "beginning of an open dialogue" that will invite constituent groups and business leaders to talk about long-term funding strategies for the regent universities, including more predictable tuition for students and families. He said board members have no predetermined outcomes in mind, only that "what we're doing now has to be fixed" and that "everything will be on the table."

Richards said the task force's operational timeline isn't set, but that the group needs to complete its work before the 2018 Legislature convenes in January. Regents Larry McKibben (chair), Milt Dakovich (vice chair), Sherry Bates and Nancy Boettger comprise the task force.

Noting, for example, that 65 percent of the students in his home school district (Marshalltown) are non-white, as well as the diversity within the state's workforce, McKibben said it will be important for the regent universities to figure out "how to take care of first-generation college students."

FY18 salary policy

February changes to Iowa law governing collective bargaining rights transferred the task of setting annual step increases to the regents' annual salary policy discussion. In the fiscal year that begins July 1, no step increases will be awarded. The two-year collective bargaining agreement between the state of Iowa and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, which covers Iowa State's merit employees, calls for 1 percent increases on July 1 this summer and next.

As announced earlier this month, there won't be an across-the-board salary increase on July 1 for faculty and professional and scientific employees. Increases will be allowed only to reward exceptional performers or to correct market or equity issues, and every increase will require approval from the appropriate senior vice president/chief financial officer.

First readings

The board gave a first (of the required two) reading to several proposals. The second reading for each is to occur at a yet-to-be-scheduled board meeting in late June. They include:

  • A new phased retirement proposal for regent university employees that offers a one- or two-year phased period with specific reductions in workload and salary for each (the program that sunsets on June 30 provides up to five years to fully retire). If approved later this month, the program would take effect July 1.
  • Iowa State's proposed bachelor's degree in nursing (RN to BSN) program was presented to the board's academic and student affairs committee. Clinical assistant professor Ginny Wangerin said it wouldn't replicate either the University of Iowa's online BSN program or the state's community college programs -- the most common way registered nurses in the state receive their education. The ISU program would give RNs another avenue for gaining their BSN, which most major hospitals are encouraging or requiring for their nurses. 
  • Elimination of two ISU centers: Center for Integrated Animal Genomics and Midwest Agribusiness Trade Research, which haven’t been active since 2012 and 2011, respectively.

In other business, the board:

  • Received an update on the presidential search process from search committee co-chair and College of Design dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez. He noted that in its nearly 160-year history, Iowa State has had just 15 presidents, so serving on a presidential search committee is "a very rare opportunity." He said the committee's goal is to attract a great pool of candidates, which will lead to identifying "the right person" for Iowa State. Those who didn't attend a public listening session (June 12-13) to share ideas on desired characteristics in the next president may send their ideas to by June 19.
  • Approved the sale of $25.17 million recreational system facilities revenue refunding bonds, to advance refund 2009 bonds sold to partially pay for recreation services' State Gym expansion and renovation. Lower interest rates will save recreation services an estimated $3 million over the life of the bonds, with annual cash flow savings of approximately $200,000.
  • Accepted the resignation of its executive director and chief executive officer Robert Donley, effective July 15. He has served in the post since 2008. Donley did not participate in the board meeting. After sharing a few prepared comments, he accepted a plaque from the board and departed. Richards said an interim executive director will be announced "soon" and that Donley's duties are being reassigned.