Iowa State ranks among lowest tuition land-grant universities


ISU students will see an increase of 3.5% for Iowa resident students and 4% for nonresident students.

Samantha Mori

Iowa State clocked the second-lowest in-state tuition and lowest out-of-state tuition for the 2019-2020 school year among land-grant universities.

These peer land grant universities include Penn State University, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of California – Davis, Michigan State University, Texas A&M University, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin, Purdue University and North Carolina State University.

According to the Iowa State Institutional Research’s Tuition & Required Fees Comparison report for 2019-2020, Iowa State has the second-lowest rate of tuition and required fees among its peers for resident undergraduates at $9,320. The report also states that Iowa State has the lowest rates for non-resident undergraduate students at $24,508.

“We are amongst the lowest of the schools,” said Iowa State Director of Financial Aid Roberta Johnson. “The office of institutional research… typically go out to our peer groups and do a lot of analysis about where we are compared to others.”

Iowa State’s low tuition rates are set by the Iowa Board of Regents. The process of setting tuition rates happens each year. 

Iowa State’s tuition is set each year by the Board of Regents, who govern Iowa’s three public universities, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Iowa. The universities submit tuition proposals to the board; then, the board evaluates the proposals. The first discussion is held in April, and approval is given in June during a typical year.

“This year the first reading did not happen until June, with approval in July,” said Iowa Board of Regents Senior Communications Director Josh Lehman.

When evaluating tuition proposals, the Board of Regents considers state funding levels, appropriation requests, and operating costs that can be covered by efficiencies and reallocations. The board also considers the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), which measures the average level of prices in a fixed market basket of goods and services purchased by colleges or universities through education and general expenditure. HEPI excludes the costs of research.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, Iowa State’s tuition and fees for resident undergraduate students in most majors is $4,816.95 per semester. For non-resident undergraduate students, it’s $12,722.95 per semester, according to the Iowa State Registrar’s website. Amounts may be higher for some majors because of differential tuition for programs that require additional costs. 

The costs of tuition can be slightly offset by financial aid offered to students.

“We have probably close to $450 million that we are awarding on an annual basis,” said Johnson. “For fiscal year ’21… it was about, a little over, $476 million.”