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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

Schools Seek 6% Tuition Increase

October 24, 2009
By Staci Hupp - Des Moines Register

Students would be charged an extra $100 next semester and an average of 6.5 percent more in tuition and fees next year at Iowa's three state universities under proposals released Friday by the Iowa Board of Regents.

© John Gaps III / The Register
Prospective students and their parents tour the campus of Iowa State University on Friday. Tuition and fees at Iowa State would go up by $346 next year under a proposal that the Iowa Board of Regents will vote on in December. (John Gaps III / The Register)

A proposed surcharge for spring 2010 would be added to help offset a midyear state budget cut. The surcharge would increase the cost of an education to an average of $6,804 this year for an undergraduate student from Iowa.

Next year's proposed tuition and fees would cost undergraduates from Iowa an average $437 more to enroll at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

Tuition would go up an average of 6 percent in the 2010-11 school year. Mandatory student fees would account for the rest of the increase.

The higher fees do not include room and board costs.

"That's higher than I would like," said Bob Downer, a regent from Iowa City who favors a 4 to 5 percent increase. "These are very difficult questions because we're looking at the financial circumstances affecting students and their families as the economy has deteriorated."

U of I students would feel the biggest financial squeeze. Iowa residents would pay 8.7 percent more in undergraduate tuition and fees, while out-of-state students would pay 6.8 percent more.

© John Gaps III / The Register
Iowa State University sophomore Jerel Grupe, left, talks with prospective student Paul Davidson of Libertyville, Ill., and Paul's mother Ann, during a tour of the Ames campus on Friday. The state universities want to increase tuition and fees by 6.5 percent. (John Gaps III / The Register)

"They are already charging us enough, and everything else around campus is expensive," said U of I sophomore Erik Olson, 20, of Sioux Falls, S.D. "I have a friend who paid $1,000 for books. All we need is another increase."

Presidents of the three universities submitted the tuition and fee proposals, which regents will discuss at a meeting next week. The schools' plans for tackling a 10 percent, across-the-board budget cut ordered this month by Gov. Chet Culver will be disclosed at the same meeting.

The regents have urged university leaders to consider a tuition surcharge, pay cuts and layoffs, among other options, in their plans for reducing their expenses by about $58 million.

Surcharges are a softer blow than mid-year tuition increases because they are temporary, said David Miles of West Des Moines, the regents' president.

The short notice is what worries Briana Dumstorff.

The ISU sophomore could suffer twice from state budget cuts if a surcharge is approved. She already faces smaller scholarship payments through the Iowa College Student Aid Commission.

"For next year I can start planning now, but for next semester I have three months to figure out what I want to do," Dumstorff said.

Chart 1

At least three regents - Ruth Harkin of Cumming, ISU junior Greta Johnson of Le Mars and Craig Lang of Brooklyn - have said they oppose a surcharge, which would generate $5.7 million.

Regents have said they want to balance the needs of cash-strapped Iowans with those of the universities, whose share of state aid has eroded over time.

In 1980, the state shouldered 77.4 percent of operating budgets for the schools, and tuition provided 20.8 percent of revenue.

This year, the state's share was 41 percent while tuition was 53 percent.

The latest round of budget cuts has taken the universities' share of state money to 1998 levels, Miles said.

The U of I, ISU and UNI already face swelling class sizes, and hiring and salary freezes this year because of state revenue shortfalls.

The schools braced for a 12 percent cut in state money, or $86 million, in the budget year that ended June 30.

Chart 2

Money from a federal economic stimulus package filled in most of the gap, but university leaders pared expenses anyway because the stimulus windfall will disappear next year.

"My sense of it is that the universities have had to do more with less for a considerable period of time, and so we need to consider making additional changes to increase revenues so that we protect core quality," Miles said.

ISU sophomore Meaghan Bryan is open-minded about tuition increases as long as the regents target waste at the universities.

"I know professors who will teach, like, one class a semester, or one class within a period of a year and they don't do as much research as you would expect," said Bryan, 20, of the Guthrie County town of Jamaica. "It's almost as if they're being paid to be lazy."

The regents will vote on the surcharge and next year's tuition and fees in December.