Board of Regents president: Campuses will be fully back to normal by fall

Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa and other state university activities are expected to be back to normal next fall, the Iowa Board of Regents president said. (Photo via University of Iowa Facilities Management)

The president of Iowa’s Board of Regents said Thursday that campus operations will see a “welcome return to traditional campus activities this fall, full football stadiums included.”

In a school year-end meeting of the Board of Regents, President Michael Richards said that Iowa’s three public universities — University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — will return to normal this fall, with no social distancing or mask requirements. The universities will offer in-person classes “to the same extent prior to the pandemic,” he said.

In late May, Richards lifted the Board of Regents’ state of emergency, allowing campuses to reopen at full capacity without mask or distancing restrictions.

The move followed new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that vaccinated people could socialize without COVID-19 precautions. Even before the new CDC guidance, Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted Iowa’s mask requirements in February, allowing all businesses and individuals to decide whether COVID-19 precautions were necessary.

Richards said faculty and staff who have been working remotely will return to offices on July 1. The Board of Regents will not require any staff or students to be vaccinated before returning to in-person classes, but Richards said all three schools will make vaccines available to anyone who wants them.

“All members of the campus community are strongly, strongly encouraged to receive a vaccination against COVID-19,” Richards said.

Tuition rate increase looms over Regents meeting

The Iowa Legislature passed a budget in May that gives the Regents universities no additional funding for the upcoming fiscal year and lifts a tuition freeze on the institutions. Richards did not say Thursday whether the Board of Regents would increase tuition at Iowa’s universities to make up for the flat state funding.

“Our universities need appropriate amount of resources to continue to provide high-quality education, but we also want to keep our universities accessible and affordable as possible for Iowans,” Richards said.

The Board will discuss the issue later this month, Richards said, and then vote on a new rate in July. Student leaders have spoken against the possibility of a tuition increase, arguing that a surprise higher rate would exacerbate the hardships that students already faced during the pandemic.