The University of Northern Iowa campus. (Photo courtesy of University of Northern Iowa)
The Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday approved a tuition freeze for the fall 2020 semester, even as student leaders urged a commitment to also avoid raising tuition for the spring.
While keeping tuition and fees at current levels for the fall semester, the regents approved a plan that states the board will reevaluate the need for a tuition increase in the spring semester.
“It will be jarring for many students if this tuition freeze is lifted for the spring semester, especially if tuition increases dramatically,” said Paul Esker, government relations chair for the University of Iowa Graduate & Professional Student Government.
Esker said graduate and professional students would have little choice but to take out more loans if a midstream tuition increase is approved.
Connor Wooff, undergraduate student body president at University of Iowa, raised not only the personal and financial stress of COVID-19 but the protests over racial injustice as a reason for stability in tuition.
“The murder of George Floyd is not just another event, another news story. It is a reality that some of our students at Iowa experience every day. Racial injustice today has become more subtle, discreet and deeply rooted in our everyday life,” he said.
Morgan Fritz, student body president at Iowa State University, called on Iowa lawmakers to prioritize university support. She said tuition at ISU has increased by over 160% since 1999 while state support has remained static. “The board of Regents has made the correct decision and now the Iowa Legislature must do the same,” she said.
Board members, meeting electronically, did not comment on the students’ requests for early action on spring tuition. Board President Michael Richards announced earlier in the meeting that a special committee would be looking at efficiencies and new ways for the universities to collaborate.
The board heard estimates during its April meeting that the universities anticipated losses totaling $190 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, they also heard that University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics expected a $100 million impact in the final quarter of the fiscal year that ends June 30.
Iowa lawmakers have not yet announced budget targets for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Revenue estimates for the state have dropped about $360 million for the coming fiscal year compared to previous estimates set in March.
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