University student representatives raise concerns about potential tuition raise

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jun 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-18 19:25:33-04

Student leaders at Iowa’s state universities said proposed tuition increases and eroding state support will harm not only students but Iowa’s communities in the future.

The Iowa Board of Regents will consider a proposal Monday to increase tuition for in-state graduates and undergraduates by 4.25%. The meeting will only be the first reading and the final vote won’t take place until the July meeting. 

Undergraduate students at all three universities would see a tuition increase exceeding $300 per semester. The proposal comes after the Legislature approved an increase of only 1.1% in general state aid for the coming school year. The universities asked for a $15 million increase and received $5.5 million.

Iowa State University Student Body President Jacob Ludwig said in an interview that Iowa’s Regents universities have long benefitted from being lower-cost compared to universities in neighboring states. Every year that state support dwindles, Iowa’s advantage slips away.

“We are really going to have to be aware of that reality and it is something that we are going to have to take to legislators in years going forward,” Ludwig said. “We are going to have to do a better job of communicating not only that it is important to fund public education, that is generally a public good, but also the value we bring to Iowa, what is the investment that the state Legislature is making.”

University of Northern Iowa Student Body President Leila Mašinović said rising costs will prevent some students from attending universities.

“At this point, we’re not only affecting our students and their families and you know how they can afford to get a college education, but we’re also affecting how the quality of our communities are looking like in the future,” Mašinović said. “I mean, if you raise the price so high, people are going to stop going to college because they wouldn’t, they won’t be able to afford it.”

The University of Iowa will propose a 1.17% increase for out-of-state undergraduate tuition and a 1.51% increase for out-of-state graduate students. These rates differ based on the market in hopes to attract non-residents.

University of Iowa’s Student Body President Patrick Johnson said in an email response: “The University of Iowa’s Undergraduate Student Government supports and advocates for access to affordable, quality education for all individuals. While decisions regarding appropriations are ultimately determined by our leaders in the State Legislature, we remain committed to collaborating with both elected officials as well as Iowa Regents to ensure education is provided that meets the standard of Iowa universities at an affordable cost for years to come.”

Student fees also rising

As for student fees, Iowa State students could face a $145 hike, while students at the University of Iowa will pay an additional $56 and University of Northern Iowa students would pay an extra $27. All three universities have a student fees committee that meets with various departments to discuss financial needs and then produces funding recommendations for the Board of Regents’ consideration.

Ludwig also served on Iowa State’s Student Fees committee. He said the increase in the fee is to maintain services at their current levels as a result of rising costs.

“If we are going to increase fees, it is only going to ever be to keep things level because I don’t think right now students are clamoring for a lot of new services,” Ludwig said. “But obviously it really hurts when you lose big things, especially for like counselors over at health services. That is not really an area that we can afford to cut back on funding.”

All three universities increased student fees to better equip mental health services on campus after years of high demand despite a decline in enrollment. Mašinović said students’ needs for mental health services heightened after the pandemic and she hopes the increase will be able to cover the demand.

Graduate workers still demand a raise

A union for graduate student workers still plans to seek a pay raise for its members, Caleb Klipowicz said. He serves as the publicity chair for the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students (COGS) Union at the University of Iowa. Klipowicz said if the Regents can afford raises for administration, which were approved last month, then COGS still plans to request a pay raise for graduate student workers that matches inflation rates.

“If they are not asking enough or doing enough on their end as far as the Board of Regents go that is not our concern because honestly we are here for the workers and we negotiate with the Board of Regents, not the Legislature,” Klipowicz said. “So we will continue to push for wages that will work for us and it is up to them to make it work for them on the other end. If that is too hard for them, we can always quit.”

Undergraduate student contracts, teacher’s assistants and resident advisers do not have to pay tuition but Klipowicz said not all graduate students are able to serve in those roles every semester. 

“We already know inflation is going up and the cost of living in Iowa City for an apartment already takes away more than half of our paycheck,” Klipowicz said. “So it is simply going to add more and more financial burden which people are likely going to translate to additional student debt which they wouldn’t have had prior.”

Students and others will have an opportunity to address the proposed increases at Monday’s Board of Regents meeting, which will be held online.

Mašinović said the tuition increase will have greater implications on society as a whole because a greater opportunity for education means stronger communities within the state of Iowa.

“It’s so important for everyone to go out and vote because the people that are deciding these things, they’re not the Board of Regents, it’s the legislators,” Mašinović said. “So in order to have an understanding and a better support system of our students and everyone involved in the process, we have to make sure that we’re voting people in that we believe will make a good impact… We need people that we trust in our legislative positions.”

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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