Presidents of Regent universities voice tuition-hike support at Iowa Board of Regents meeting

Paige Godden

IOWA CITY — The presidents of Iowa’s three Regents universities spoke in support of higher tuition rates for fiscal year 2012 at Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting. Student leaders’ opinions seemed to vary.

“I approve a modest additional total 4.7 percent increase for the University of Iowa,” said University of Iowa President Sally Mason. “We’ve maintained and continue to grow quality for our students.”

She said the University of Iowa is still dealing with flood recovery from 2008, on which the university is spending nearly $1 million per year.

ISU President Gregory Geoffroy spoke of his concerns with declining faculty and larger enrollment rates.

“Iowa State is maxed out in use of large classroom space we have,” Geoffroy said. “It puts a limit on large classes.”

He said this year, Iowa State had its largest enrollments in a number of departments.

Geoffroy said the numbers for next year are running substantially higher than last year, using indicators such as the number of students who have signed residence hall contracts.

He said that financial aid is very important to students, and the university set aside about 22 percent, or $50 million, for financial aid.

Geoffroy said 80.3 percent of undergraduates received financial aid. He also said student debt is a big problem for Iowa State.

“It’s gone down a little bit even though tuition rates have gone up … as we work to increase scholarships and decrease loans,” Geoffroy said.

Geoffroy said that last year Iowa State had a complete pay-freeze for faculty and staff.

“Last year we had mandatory furloughs; and reduced retirement contributions last year by 20 percent,” Geoffroy said, adding that during the past five years, staff in facilities planning and management was reduced by 50 percent, and there has been a 5 percent reduction in faculty and staff across the university since 2008.

Representatives from the Iowa Graduate and Professional Student Society and the University of Northern Iowa Student Body Government approved the tuition hike, saying they understood budget cuts form the state have been hard.

Luke Roling, president of the ISU Government of the Student Body, disagreed.

“I cannot, in good conscience, support this increase in tuition,” Roling said.

Roling said during his three years on GSB, addressing student debt has been a priority for students and administration alike.

Roling said GSB has been working to decrease student debt through actions such as creating a new online financial literacy course for students.

“However, these efforts cannot do much more than stem the bleeding if tuition keeps increasing,” Roling said.