Board of Regents discuss potential of tuition freeze not reaching approval

Emelie Knobloch

As the tuition freeze approaches a decision, the Board of Regents discussed the potential financial burdens it might have on students if it were not approved. 

For college tuition to stand still in the state of Iowa, an increase of 4 percent possibly could find its way to Iowa taxpayers. 

The increase is an estimated $20 million, according to last week’s Board of Regents meeting in Iowa City. 

But the board members warned they could cancel the freeze and approve tuition increases next year if the budget approved by lawmakers doesn’t include the increased funding.

“It is desirable to rebalance what Iowa families contribute,” said Gov. Terry Branstad about tuition, via The Des Moines Register.

If the tuition freeze is not approved for another year, tuition would jump no more than 2.5 percent for most out-of-state undergraduates. This would be $334 for Iowa State out-of-state students.

Bruce Rastetter, president of the Board of Regents, called the proposal a modest increase that will still keep the universities’ tuition rates competitive in the market place.

“It would certainly be something we would love to do,” Branstad said.

An extra $5.80 would also be added to fees for undergraduate students.

Graduate student tuition at Iowa State would increase by 1.8 percent for in-state students and 3.2 percent for out-of-state students.

“Many of our students are very concerned about being saddled with unmanageable debt on graduation,” Branstad said.

Branstad said the plans for freezing tuition were part of an effort to help Iowa families afford tuition after dramatic increases over the last 10 or 12 years.

Rastetter stated it should be easier this time to convince lawmakers to support the plan than last year and said that cost-saving and reform efforts by the universities would also help convince lawmakers to back the funding increase.

A new efficiency study led by regents Larry McKibben and Milt Dakovich was announced by Rastetter last Thursday to look for new ways to save money.

Another task force is studying how state funding is divided among the three state universities, and whether to tie money to performance measures such as on-time graduation rates.

Rastetter said recommendations from these two groups could be critical in holding down tuition costs and the student debt load in the years to come.

This would be the first tuition freeze since 1975 to happen over consecutive years. The freeze would impact the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Iowa School for the Deaf and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. 

The Board of Regents is scheduled to vote in December about tuition rates for the 2014-15 school year.