Board of Regents increases tuition, approves raises for university presidents

By: - June 14, 2023 5:59 pm

The Iowa Board of Regents voted June 14, 2023, to raise tuition at the three state universities. (Photo illustration via Canva)

Students at Iowa’s public universities will pay more in tuition for the 2023-24 academic year, the Iowa Board of Regents agreed Wednesday.

In-state undergraduate students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa will pay 3.5% more for their tuition and fees. Resident students will pay $9,016, $8,982, and $8,396 respectively. Nonresident students saw varying percentages of increase, with the UI at a 1% increase to now pay $30,979, ISU at 4.0% to $26,168, and UNI at 3.5% to $19,940.

These increases follow a 4.25% increase for the 2022-23 academic year and varying increases for the 2021-22 academic year. 

Graduate and professional students also saw an increase in tuition and fees. Resident graduate students at the UI and UNI will each see a 3.5% increase, while ISU students will pay 4% more in the fall. Nonresident graduate and professional students will see a 1.28% increase at the UI, a 4% increase at ISU and a 3.5% increase at UNI. 

At the meeting, student government leaders spoke about their concerns with increasing tuition rates.

Jennifer Holiday, ISU student body vice president, said the public university system in Iowa has a “complex fiscal issue that needs to be addressed” to ensure students receive the education and opportunities that attracted them to Iowa initially. 

“When students must make the choice between eating and purchasing textbooks, or decide between going to work and attending class to be able to afford school, we have an issue. Tuition has continuously increased at our university since the turn of the century. Yet, funding support from the state has been stagnated … We need to find a solution to these issues without increasing the financial burden attending a higher education institution already bears on our students.”

She said the costs can inhibit people from becoming the professionals they want to be and tuition increases cannot continue to be the solution for the state.

Carly O’Brien, UI student body vice president, said she personally worked three jobs to offset the cost of out-of-state tuition. High living costs in Iowa City, she said, are another financial burden students carry that the board members should consider as they make tuition decisions.

“Most undergraduate students live off campus after their freshman year at Iowa and face an average monthly rent of $652 in Iowa City,” O’Brien said. “With the high cost of rent coupled with 30% of students reporting using over half of their income, likely from lower-paying jobs, on housing puts students under a heavy financial and emotional burden … 67% of students at Iowa report eating less because they could not afford food.”

O’Brien called for the investment in student services to meet the increased investments students are making in their own education via tuition increases. 

ISU Graduate and Professional Student Senate President Christine Cain said the rising tuition costs affect graduate students’ ability to be financially independent for years after college — something that only hurts them and Iowa.

“On average, college students accrue greater than $37,000 in debt by the time they complete their undergraduate degree and if they choose to pursue a professional or doctorate level degree, that debt can exceed $100,000, maybe even $200,000 for programs such as veterinary medicine,” Cain said. “It is because of student debt, rising tuition and the cost of being a student that now demands a kind of hypervigilance toward payment and funding because we are already seeing the severe consequences of delayed financial independence due to student debt.”

Students call on the Iowa Legislature to fund higher education

Micaiah Krutsinger, UNI student body vice president, said he was ready to help the regents work with lawmakers to better fund higher education. He said the burden of inflation should not be on the shoulders of students.

“In fiscal year 2001, 63.7% of the three universities’ general funding came from the state and 30.6% from tuition,” Krutsinger said. “Now, for fiscal year 2023’s budget, it’s nearly flipped with 30.5% from the state and 63.8% from tuition. In fact, our three universities combined currently have $57.5 million less in general funding from the state as compared to 2001.”

Cain said the diversity of the student body decreases with these costs and limits how many career options people have. Everyone in the state, she said, interacts, benefits or relies on college-educated people in some way and the institutions should be funded as such.

“This shift in placing the burden in higher education on individuals and families, it starts with the appropriations committee in the Iowa legislature,” she said. “However, the board of regents and our higher education institutions perpetuate this problem by addressing funding shortages with ever-rising tuition.”

She said it’s time to explore alternative options for revenue so students are not responsible to make up for shortcomings from the state.

University presidents receive raises

The regents met in closed session on June 13 to evaluate the leadership at Iowa’s public institutions. On June 14, it approved pay raises for all three university presidents.

UI President Barbara Wilson will receive a $50,000 raise annually for the next five years as well as a deferred compensation plan to increase the principal value by 25%. Wilson’s contract was extended until 2028 from its original 2026 termination date

ISU President Wendy Wintersteen received a new deferred compensation plan with annual contributions of $415,000 until 2025. The regents also established a new employment agreement with Wintersteen beginning in July and ending in 2026. 

UNI President Mark Nook received a $15,000 increase to his annual base salary. 

Board of Regents Executive Director Mark Braun will also receive a new deferred compensation plan beginning July 1 and extending to 2025. There will be annual contributions of $155,000. 

State incentives high-demand jobs

The Iowa Workforce Grant and Incentive Program, which was created in response to a program that was developed by the Iowa Legislature, was approved by the regents on Wednesday.

A total of $6.5 million is now available to students to receive $2,000 grants for up to three semesters if they are in a high-demand occupation starting this fall. 

Chief Academic Officer Rachel Boon said the program is aligned with high-demand occupations in Iowa. She said students are eligible for funding if they are part of a program that is in a high-demand field.

“The parameters around what counts as a high demand-occupation are in the legislation so we worked with Iowa Workforce Development who creates that list,” she said.

Boon said they used federal data to determine what university programs are aligned with those occupations. “There are some exceptions, so we do have some latitude to work outside to add in programs that may be appropriate,” she said.

An example of this was the accounting programs at the three public universities. UNI’s program was coded differently and didn’t fit federal regulations but was put on the list by the regents, she said. 

“We ended up ultimately with 69 unique programs from Iowa State University, 48 from the University of Iowa, and 59 from the University of Northern Iowa,” she said. “The variance in that is largely around some of their areas of specialty and expertise.”

Regent David Barker pointed out that the program includes a significant number of science, technology, engineering and math majors, but there are also more humanities, including several education majors. 

Iowa College Aid will lead the delegation of funds. There is not a separate application for students to fill out, Boon said, as eligibility is spelled out by need and field for Iowa College Aid. 

She said the legislation requires the occupation list to be altered every two years and the regents will hear about the program every time the list alters. 

O’Brien commended the state’s work on the Iowa Workforce Grant Incentive Program.

“As a nursing-interest, I am encouraged because a program like this is definitely a step in the right direction for the state of Iowa’s future and I hope that the board and state legislature continue to promote workforce development and scholarship opportunities to continue to impact the greatest amount of students.” 

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Eleanor Hildebrandt
Eleanor Hildebrandt

Eleanor Hildebrandt is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communication and global health studies, with a minor in German. She is a managing editor at the university newspaper, the Daily Iowan, and has served as an reporter intern at Iowa Capital Dispatch.