GSB begins fight against tuition increase

Doug Stevens and Wendy Weiskircher

The student governments of Iowa’s three regent universities are joining forces to combat predicted double-digit percentage tuition increases for the 2001-2002 academic year. The ISU Government of the Student Body, along with the student leaders from the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa, are launching a triple-tiered effort to lower next year’s tuition increase by about 5 percent. When the budgets for the three regent universities were cut last spring by the state legislature, a major increase in tuition was expected to compensate for the lack of state funding. All factors considered, the estimated regents proposal would result in a tuition increase of 10 to 12 percent, costing in-state students about $300 more per year and out-of-state students about $900 more. The GSB proposal would minimize the increase to about 7 percent. However, student leaders claim the higher tuition rates will cause a dip in enrollment numbers at the regent institutions, causing more damage to the universities in the long run. “There’s a supply and demand curve,” said GSB President Ben Golding at the senate meeting Wednesday night. “As soon as you raise your price, there’s going to be a drop in demand.” The students most affected by the tuition increase will be those from families who are “right on the margin,” Golding said – the families that may not be able to afford the tuition at a state university. For any student, Golding added, $300 a year out-of-pocket is a substantial amount. In turn, Iowa State will become less able to compete with other schools to attract top students. “We’re always told that we’re one of the lowest-costing universities around,” Golding said. “That’s what keeps us competitive.” Last year, the tuition increased by 4.3 percent. This year, four main factors are contributing to the jump in tuition. The first factor is a standard-inflation measurement called the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI). A second factor is a quality increase, which goes toward keeping class sizes low, renovating and enhancing technology. The estimated regents’ proposal has the HEPI increase between 4 and 6 percent, and the quality increase at 2 percent. GSB is proposing a combined 4.3 percent increase for HEPI and quality. The tuition and fees split, which will separate money from the total tuition amount for student activities, recreational services and CyRide, was approved by the Board of Regents last fall for the University of Iowa. Iowa State will follow suit this year, which could create an additional increase of 2 to 3 percent. GSB’s proposal would lower that increase to 1.7 percent. “With the budget cuts, the school does not want to pay for non-academic interests out of tuition,” Steve Medanic, GSB finance director, said. The final factor is the computer fee, which will be raised over two years to keep the campus computer systems up-to-date. The computer fee will create a 1.15 percent increase. The student leaders will present their proposal to the Board of Regents at its September meeting, and the tuition increases will be finalized and voted on in October.