Tuition task force unveils plans

The state Board of Regents has announced Aug. 14 tuition task force meeting at the UI, with three other meetings scheduled across the state that will include legislative and business stakeholders, as well as the public and university communities.


Nick Rohlman

UI President Bruce Harreld takes a question from Regent Larry McKibben during a Board of Regents meeting on June 8, 2017. McKibben chaired the regents’ tuition task force. (The Daily Iowan/Nick Rohlman)

Five-year tuition plans from Iowa’s three public universities will be the highlight of the state Board of Regents’ tuition task force meetings taking place later this summer.

The task force’s four meetings will commence with a July 27 meeting at the Pappajohn Education Center, 1200 Grand Ave., Des Moines, according to a schedule released by the regents. Those invited to make presentations include Gov. Kim Reynolds or someone from her office, legislative leaders, and business and economic development stakeholders.

In August, the task force will hold meetings at the public universities — the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Iowa — during which university representatives will present five-year tuition proposals to the task force. These meetings will also include an hourlong listening session.

All meetings are open to the public, and they will be live-streamed and archived. The public can email the task force at the regents’ website.

The regents will hear a summary of the task force’s meetings at its Sept. 6-7 meeting on the UI campus.

RELATED: Outlook for another tuition hike

Through the task force’s meetings, the regents plan to re-examine the process of setting tuition at its three institutions and come up with five-year models that will provide students and families with predictability in planning their higher-education finances. These plans may vary for each institution, though the regents have traditionally aimed to keep base resident undergraduate tuition roughly the same.

“Each institution is a little bit different, and that’s one thing that we haven’t had any votes or discussion, but there’s a general trend that we do want to allow the universities to maybe make some adjustments based on their own needs,” Regent President Michael Richards said after the June 8 meeting at UNI.

Background behind the task force’s formation

The task force will convene after a series of tuition increases, including two-consecutive June votes to hike tuition, which student-government leaders have condemned as being unfair to students and families who have already planned their finances based on the tuition rates approved in December each year.

RELATED: Regents approve another tuition hike

In an attempt to offer predictability in approving tuition rates and state appropriations requests, the regents unveiled in September 2016 a dynamic “2+2” model to provide students, families, and state lawmakers with a two-year funding outlook.

Former Regent President Bruce Rastetter hinted at the formation of the task force at the regents’ April meeting in Council Bluffs when discussing the likelihood of a vote in the near future to increase tuition due to midyear budget cuts.

A state budget shortfall of more than $100 million in January resulted in a reduction of approximately $18 million in state appropriations the three regent institutions, with the UI seeing a loss upwards of $9 million.

In light of the cuts, Rastetter said, the task force would be key to discussing the realities of public support for state universities.

UI leaders’ hopes for tuition plans and higher education funding

UI President Bruce Harreld and UI administration:
  • Raise faculty salaries to retain faculty and prevent other universities from poaching top faculty
  • Move tuition closer to the average of the UI’s peer group rather than its current level, which is at the bottom compared with peer institutions
  • Maintain tuition rate increases of about 5 percent on an ongoing basis to remain competitive with peer universities
  • Include financial aid in the budget and improve processes to identify students who need aid most, including first-generation and other underrepresented students
  • Continue campus-wide efforts to boost efficiency and reinvest in the UI’s core mission through the Transparent Inclusive Efficiency Review
  • Pursue strategic initiatives and maintain the UI’s status as a Research-1 institution
  • Make the case for funding higher education and promote its value to state politicians and other stakeholders
  • Rely less on lagging state support to fund the university and instead turn to philanthropic donations
UI Student Government President Jacob Simpson and Vice President Lilián Sánchez:
  • Develop a plan that offers students and families predictability to better plan their finances and avoid summer votes to increase tuition
  • Advocate for the establishment of a need-based tuition grant program to support resident students wishing to attend regent universities
  • Examine tuition from a holistic perspective and think about tuition increases in terms of absolute dollar values rather than percentages
  • Consider the burden placed on disproportionate tuition rates between resident and nonresident students
  • Remember students also pay for housing and meals — for some, a tuition increase means choosing among education, food, and shelter
  • Determine who will have access to and be able to afford a UI education
  • Urge the UI to publish how it spends additional tuition revenue
  • Ensure financial-aid programs support the students most in need
  • Get as much student input as possible and keep the dialogue open between administrators

Meeting schedule

July 27 at the Pappajohn Education Center, 1200 Grand Ave., Des Moines

9 a.m. to noon — Legislative stakeholders presentation

Invitations made to the governor or a designee, legislative leadership or designees, and the Legislative Services Agency and Department of Management

1 to 4 p.m. — Economic development and business stakeholders presentation

Invitations made to the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Department of Workforce Development, and Department of Economic Development

Aug. 7 at the University of Northern Iowa campus, Slife Ballroom

10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — UNI 5-year tuition presentation

Noon to 1 p.m. — Listening session

Aug. 9 on the Iowa State University campus, 240 Scheman Building

10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — ISU 5-year tuition presentation

Noon to 1 p.m. — Listening session

Aug. 14 on the UI campus, 101 Biology Building East

10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — UI 5-year tuition presentation

Noon to 1 p.m. — Listening session

Editor’s note (7/10/2017): An earlier version stated that the UISG leaders advocated for the use of the Iowa Tuition Grant to support resident students attending regent universities. They are now advocating for the establishment of a new need-based tuition grant program to support resident students wishing to attend regent universities.