Regents propose flat tuition for fall

At its June 4 meeting, the state Board of Regents will vote on a proposal for flat tuition and mandatory fees for all students during the 2020-21 academic year. Board president Mike Richards presented the plan during a special meeting April 30, and it received its requisite first reading at a subsequent May 4 meeting. Richards said the board would reassess spring semester tuition in late fall, if needed.

"It's important for students, families and our institutions to have as much financial predictability as soon as possible," Richards said, noting the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone.

He also noted the pandemic is hitting during an already challenging time for higher education, including increased competition for both students and state financial support. Those changes likely will be accelerated, he said.

Proposed tuition* and mandatory fees: 2020-21










Professional (Vet Med)



*Standard tuition; doesn't reflect differential tuitions

COVID-19 costs

The primary purpose of the April 30 meeting was for regent university presidents to update board members on financial losses and costs due to the pandemic. Collectively, they outlined $263 million in lost revenue and added expenses. President Wendy Wintersteen said a "conservative" estimate for Iowa State, covering early March to late August, is $88 million in refunds and lost revenue, and nearly $1 million in additional expenses. She noted these estimates don't reflect the impact of reduced research operations, but do include things like:

  • Refunds for unused portions of student housing and dining contracts and parking permits.
  • Emergency flight changes to help study-abroad students return home and refunds for programs cut short or canceled.
  • Prorated refunds for course fees that supported hands-on components, such as field trips and lab supplies.
  • Costs to move courses online.
  • Costs to support employees working remotely.
  • Costs to provide personal protective equipment and additional cleaning supplies for front-line employees in public safety, health care and facilities operations.
  • Lost revenue for canceled conferences, seminars, athletic events and performances.
  • Lost earnings on ISU endowments.
  • Lost revenue due to modified operations in veterinary medicine service units.

"The Iowa State community has responded to this crisis with creativity, innovation and flexibility," Wintersteen told the board. "We're very proud of our faculty and staff who responded quickly to uphold the land-grant mission to ensure critical university operations continue and to keep our students on track with their academic progress."

Inter-university efficiencies

Richards also announced April 30 a four-member advisory group to look for opportunities among the three regent universities to collaborate for efficiency.

"We don't know what financial toll this pandemic will have on our institutions, but we know it's significant," he said. "We can't focus on returning to business as usual. We must be proactive about the hurdles ahead and redesign our universities to make them stronger."

Regents David Barker and Nancy Dunkel will co-chair the committee, joined by regents Nancy Boettger and Jim Lindenmayer. Richards asked them to look at possibilities in both administration and academics. Their recommendations are due at the board's November meeting.

"These are things we needed to consider before COVID-19, and things we now must consider," Richards said. Examples could include:

  • Students from one university taking online classes at another university.
  • Consolidating some administrative duties that occur at all three universities.
  • Moratorium on new construction.

Richards also reiterated the board's intent "to have our campuses fully operational this August.

"This decision will be made only if supported with guidance from the CDC, Iowa Department of Public Health, the governor's office and others," he said, "but we must plan as if this is going to be the case."

Bond sale

During the April 30 meeting, the board also approved a sale of $17.6 million of ISU dormitory revenue refunding bonds to refund three previous sales of dormitory revenue refunding bonds in 2010 and 2011. Those in turn refunded bonds sold to help build Frederiksen Court Apartments, Eaton Hall and the Union Drive Community Center. A lower interest rate (2.05%) will save the university an estimated $1.56 million.