Tuition increase proposal awaits June decision

The state Board of Regents offered little reaction to Iowa State's 2018-19 tuition proposal during its first reading April 12. The board will vote on it June 7. Presented about five months later than normal, yet still under uncertainty about state operating support for next year, Iowa State's proposal has several components:

  • A 3.8 percent tuition increase ($284 for the year) for Iowa State resident undergraduates and 4 percent for all others
  • The final year of a three-phase, $542 annual tuition differential assessed all international students ($1,500 when implemented)
  • A three-year plan to align Iowa State's various differential tuitions in two levels: $1,600 (all students) and $2,612 ($3,026 for nonresidents including international) annually when fully implemented. Impacted programs would take two to three years to get to the new rate.

The intent of differential tuition is to assess higher costs where they are needed rather than spread them across the entire student body. Differential tuitions would be applied after 60 credits, except in the College of Design. Students in eight studio-based majors (undergrad and graduate) would pay the differential once they complete the Design college's first-year core program.

President Wendy Wintersteen told board members the proposal is consistent with Iowa State's current use of tuition differentials, confirming the dollars "will go directly back into the programs for which they're collected."

She said the additional revenue would "allow us to maintain the quality of these programs by supporting lab-intensive and practical experiential learning courses, hiring and retaining faculty in these areas, reducing class sizes and increasing interactions between faculty and students.

"This is an incredibly important part of our proposal, and we think it's a critical need at Iowa State University," she added.

A student's perspective

Iowa State senior Cody West, who was serving his final day as president of the ISU Student Government, noted the state's pattern of reducing funding for the regent universities leaves Iowa State one option: place the responsibility for maintaining quality education "on the backs of students."

The board invited comments on the tuition proposals from student leaders at all three regent universities.

"I know that I, and many of my peers, may not have had the opportunity to attend and continue our education at Iowa State if we enrolled this fall," West said. "For my last time as student body president, I want to warn the Legislature that they are headed down a dark, unforgiving path."

Most of West's remarks addressed Iowa State's differential tuition proposal. He assured regents the differentials were thoroughly vetted with all Iowa State stakeholders, including students -- many of whom won't be around in three years when many of the proposed differentials would be fully implemented. From a student perspective, West said the proposal:

  • Keeps revenue generated from the upper-division increase in specific academic programs, not the institution's general fund
  • Is "logical and factual" and will improve the university's financial security
  • Risks forcing some students to select a major based on how much it costs instead of "where their passion and dreams lie"

Speaking later in the meeting, board president Michael Richards said the three universities' tuition proposals are "a reasonable short-term good balance to help upfund our institutions." The late spring tuition discussion stems from the board's commitment to dealing with tuition increases one time this year, on the heels of two years of early-summer adjustments following the Legislature's adjournment. Richards indicated a new tack for the board next fall. He said the goal will be to set 2019-20 rates prior to the end of the calendar year "and to have a discussion about longer-term planning regarding future tuition increases."

Iowa State facility projects

In other business, the board approved requests for these ISU projects:

  • Revisions (budget and project description) for the vehicle dynamometer facility, relocated from Sukup Hall to the Ag Engineering and Agronomy Farm southwest of Ames
  • Permission for the athletics department to begin planning for improvements on the north side of Jack Trice Stadium, including a new academic/nutrition sports performance center, additions to the Bergstrom football complex and demolition of the Olsen Building
  • Final approval of plans and budget to replace the poultry farm on State Avenue south of Ames, and approval of three names related to the new facility in recognition of funding support. The farm will be named for Robert Hamilton (deceased), formerly of rural Iowa Falls. The farm's layer hen facility will be named for the Iowa Egg Council, Urbandale, and the genetics research building will be named for Hy-Line North America, West Des Moines.
  • Sale of 68 acres of farmland south of the ISU Research Park to the park, for phase 3 development. The price is $2.1 million, exactly what the university purchased it for in 2016.