Nonresident University of Iowa students concerned about out-of-state tuition rates amid online instruction

Resident and nonresident students are paying full tuition, amid a university shift to a virtual-learning format in response to community spread of COVID-19. As they wonder if in-person classes will resume in the fall, out-of-state students are grappling with paying a nonresident tuition rate for an online education that could be obtained from an in-state university.


Mary Hartel, News Reporter

Some University of Iowa nonresident students are voicing concerns about the financial burden of out-of-state tuition as classes go virtual for universities across the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UI officials prorated refunds for on-campus housing and dining costs, but have said tuition dollars are instrumental to continuing to offer online instruction and student services as the university is expected to lose $76 million through August because of its COVID-19 response.

According to spring 2020 enrollment numbers at the UI, nonresident students, both undergraduate and graduate, make up 39.8 percent of the total student body.

For the 2019-20 academic year, tuition and fees were $9,605 for Iowa residents and $31,568 for nonresidents, according to documents from the state Board of Regents. Nonresident rates are higher because the state of Iowa subsides the education of in-state students, as they and their families have paid taxes to the state.

The regents are recommending no increases on tuition for the fall semester despite planned increases in their multiyear tuition model. They take a final vote on tuition rates June 4.

UI media-relations Director Anne Bassett said in an email to The Daily Iowan that students will not receive discounted tuition rates regardless of residential status for spring 2020 in order to cover university costs.

“Full tuition is necessary to cover the University of Iowa’s ongoing operations, including retaining the faculty and staff needed to provide virtual instruction and online student support services,” Bassett said. “The university’s faculty will continue to deliver excellent instruction virtually, which allows students to receive course credit and stay on their educational path toward degree completion and graduation.”

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The UI currently plans to return to resume in-person operations in fall 2020. The university is expecting a drop in new-student enrollment, but UI President Bruce Harreld told the regents that the rate of returning undergraduate and graduate and professional student enrollment has remained steady.


UI junior Arianna Ayala, from Illinois, said she was annoyed about still paying full tuition when the UI moved to virtual learning.

“We do pay for a lot extra being out-of-state students and for me, I’m in a lot of science classes so it’s definitely really hard not to be able to go in and see my teachers and learn first from them,” Ayala said.

Ayala is a health and human-physiology major, and said the UI’s robust health programs appealed to her.

Should the fall 2020 semester also shift to a virtual-learning format, Ayala said she would definitely continue at the UI, but believes that tuition should be discounted.

“I think that a lot of what we pay for is the resources and the experiences that we get of being at a Big Ten university, so I think it’s kind of unfair that we’d still pay that much to basically just sit at home on our computers,” Ayala said.

One of the primary factors for her decision to remain at the UI regardless of whether it resumes in-person classes is that she already signed a lease for the upcoming academic year, Ayala said, and she doesn’t want to deal with transfer credits when she’s so close to graduation as a Hawkeye.

“I think for us, a lot of the out-of-state experience comes [wanting] either a certain degree from a certain place or something drew us to that state, so if you can’t really get the experience that we’re paying for, I think it makes sense that people are like, ‘Well I’ll take a gap semester,’ ” Ayala said.

UI freshman Maddie Gilbertson, from Minnesota, said online learning was not what she signed up for when she chose to follow in the footsteps of her family members and became a Hawkeye.

“It’s definitely not the same experience learning online as it is in the classroom,” Gilbertson said.

The transition to online classes has been difficult as a business and art double major, Gilbertson said, and paying more tuition money than resident students for virtual instruction has been frustrating.

Although some of her fellow nonresident students and friends of hers have considered transferring or taking a gap year should classes remain online in the fall, Gilbertson said she plans to continue at the UI as planned.

Gilbertson added that if classes continue to be online for the foreseeable future, she may transfer to the University of Minnesota because it would be much cheaper.

For now, Gilbertson said she just hopes for a return to in-person instruction in the fall 2020 semester.

“I’m in a ceramics class next semester, and I wouldn’t know how to do that if it was online,” Gilbertson said.