Regents may raise spring tuition


Matthew Rezab/Iowa State Daily

From left, UNI President Bill Ruud, Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter and ISU President Steven Leath take questions from the media in the Scheman Building during the Board of Regents meeting on June 4. 

Matthew Rezab

The Iowa Board of Regents will decide in the fall whether to raise tuition 3 percent at Iowa’s regent universities for the spring 2016 semester.

The proposal will be discussed at the Aug. 5 meeting, if approved a second vote would be required on Sept. 9. The tuition hike would amount to $100 more per semester for a full-time undergraduate student. 

Fall tuition will remain frozen at $3,324 for ISU and UNI students, and $3,339 for students at the University of Iowa. At the June meeting, Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter explained why the regents decided to keep tuition frozen after the Legislature failed to fund the universities at recommended levels.

Rastetter said he recommended “continuing the freeze for the fall semester because students and parents need visibility and certainty on what the cost of their education will be.”

The board originally asked lawmakers to approve a 1.75 percent increase in funding for Iowa’s three public universities. After months of in-fighting, Democrats and Republicans compromised with a 1.25 percent increase and just more than $6.2 million in one-time funding to allow for a third consecutive tuition freeze.

When Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad used his line-item veto to nix the one-time funding, Iowa State missed out on $2.25 million slotted to help with another tuition freeze. Iowa State enrolled 20,260 in-state students in fall 2014. The proposal indicates the $100 increase would amount to about $3.5 million in new revenue in total for the three universities.

The increase would be prorated for less than full-time students and is not expected to change students’ financial aid packages, according to proposal documents.

According to the proposal before the board, a $15.2 million shortfall exists between the funding the General Assembly appropriated [$6.5 million] and what was requested [$21.7 million].

The shortfall “Combined with multi-year tuition freezes, the lack of state appropriations to the Regent public universities puts a significant strain on education operating budgets,” according to the regents document made available Tuesday.

University spokesman John McCarroll said the increase is being proposed by the board, therefore it’s a Board of Regents decision. He said the university has been supportive and understanding of the need for tuition freezes in the past.

“We do support the $100 increase,” McCarroll said. “President Leath indicated last fall that with our growing enrollment and a commitment to maintain high quality in student services, we were a little concerned about the tuition freeze for this entire year. We do believe that a small tuition increase like this certainly can be justified.”

Some Democratic lawmakers say the entire situation could have been avoided and are placing blame squarely at Branstad’s feet.

“I’m extremely upset about this,” State Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said. “It is a direct consequence of Gov. Branstad’s veto of the funding for Iowa State and the other universities.”

Democrats have been calling for a special session to overturn the vetoes since Branstad signed them July 2. A special session requires two-thirds of the House and Senate to sign and return a special session request. The self-imposed deadline is Wednesday, July 29. If a special session is called, two-thirds of each chamber is needed to overturn Brandstad’s veto.

“I believe we have every Senate Democrat and almost every House Democrat as well submitting letters requesting a special session,” Quirmbach said. “To my knowledge, not one single Republican has joined in that call.”

As of Tuesday, the two-thirds majority to call a special session had not been met.

“I know all 43 House Democrats will stand by our vote and make educating kids our top priority again,” House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown said in a statement. “Since the $56 million for schools received 87 votes in the Iowa House, I know there is enough support to overturn the veto in a special session if Republicans will put politics aside and stand up to their own governor.”

House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer did not respond to media requests at the time of publication.