Regents set public meetings for tuition at end of summer

Maggie Curry

The Board of Regents Tuition Task Force has announced dates and times for four public meetings on the next five years of state tuition costs.

A meeting will be on Iowa State’s campus Wednesday, August 9. There will be representatives from the university to present their five-year tuition proposals to the task force at 10:30 a.m., Room 240 in the Scheman Building, followed by a listening session at noon for public comments.

“We’re going to be listening. I’m sure there are going to be people asking questions, so it’s going to just be an open and transparent dialogue,” said Regent Larry McKibben, chair of the task force. “We said, we want to hear what the people of Iowa think. We’re gonna talk to legislative stakeholders and government people down in Des Moines. We’re gonna talk to business people about what’s the impact.”

Each meeting will also be live streamed, with a link posted on the front page of the Board of Regents website. Additionally, comments can be e-mailed to the Tuition Task Force via its website.

The Tuition Task Force was established this year by the Board start to address the reasons tuition was raised previous years, and to have that discussion publicly and transparently.

“This is trying to get in a situation where we don’t have what’s happened in the last year,” McKibben said. “We’re going to try to get away from being this reactional budget process, waiting on Des Moines. If we don’t get the kind of funding that we need, then Iowans all need to understand, what are the priorities of the legislation in Des Moines.”

Iowa is trying to lead in finding a better budgeting model for a nation-wide problem. 

“Everything is on the table,” said McKibben. “We’re going to hear, frankly, what the citizens of Iowa have to tell us… I don’t know what students are going to say, what faculty are going to say, what Iowans are going to say.”

One of the things that concerned McKibben during his four years on the Board was setting a budget, only to have to change it when the legislature finally set their budget.

“It’s not a very good financial way to handle business, to make a budget and change it several times before it gets there, and have to tell students and their families we didn’t get what we wanted to get,” McKibben said. “I think what we decided as a Board was, let’s try to look long-term and be proactive on how we do budgeting, at least let’s let Iowa families know ahead of time.”

The Tuition Task Force is chaired by McKibben and vice-chaired by Milt Dakovich. Regents Sherry Bates and Nancy Boettger also sit on the task force.

The Tuition Task Force will provide a summary of the meetings held this summer to the full Board of Regents at its September meeting, according to a release.

“I expect my next two years on the Board, I’m going to spend all my time doing this,” McKibben said. “There are a lot of things that need to be decided in [tuition]. We have a growing number of diverse students… I am extremely interested in how we’re going to make certain first-generation students can make it to our universities.”

McKibben’s work on other committees on the Board ties closely with the financial side of running universities.

“The universities are doing a great job of building efficiencies, we knew we had to become more efficient with our funding coming down. This really fits in with that,” McKibben said. “We’re going to try to get the universities to be more precise in what it’s gonna cost us.”

Iowa State, the only regent university that is also a land-grant university, has a particular level of importance in maintaining quality.

“We want to maintain that,” McKibben said. “We want to know what does it cost to have world-class research, high-quality teaching…”

In terms of cost, Iowa State is actually the lowest tuition in it’s comparative group of universities, but Iowa is leading the way in addressing the problem.

In June the Board heard from Dr. Robert K. Toutkoushian, currently a professor in the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia, on what to consider when looking at tuition increases. His main message was that the burden for paying for higher education was shifting from government to students.

“He made a tremendous presentation about what’s going on nationally and advising us, and basically saying to us ‘what you’re doing is very important,'” McKibben said.

McKibben said besides tuition, finding Iowa State a president was the “next biggest project” the Board had.

“I expect with a university as outstanding as Iowa State we’ll have tremendous [people apply]. I’m not on the committee, so I won’t see the names until we get down to the final day,” McKibben said.