After little deliberation, the Iowa Board of Regents approved another tuition increase during its meeting Monday at the University of Northern Iowa. The tuition increase is the second approved by the regents this year.
The tuition increase calls for a 2 percent rise ($142) in resident undergraduate tuition rates at all three regent universities — Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa.
Non-resident student tuition will rise 3 percent ($614).
The regents also approved a mandatory student fee increase of $12.50 to go toward mental health.
On top of the across-the-board increase, which has faced little opposition, the regents also approved a differential tuition structure and rate for upper-division students in the following five programs: animal science, biology, computer science, industrial design and natural resources ecology and management.
Iowa State Student Government President Cole Staudt has expressed concern for this model, saying that he, along with the the Student Government Senate, believe that differential tuition is the wrong approach.
"While graduates of those programs may make more after they graduate, that means little to the student who can barely afford to get to Iowa State in the first place," Staudt wrote in an email to the regents and Iowa State administrators. "The last thing we want is for students to not pursue the career they want because it costs more than other programs."
Staudt said he finds it very troubling that the board has had many different people reach out to it saying that the differential tuition model is not going to work, yet it continued on with the proposal without seeking proper input from the students.
"I'm not sure what their reasoning is," Staudt said. "They never gave me an explanation as to why they voted the way they did."
Toward the beginning of the semester, a comprehensive differential tuition model had been proposed by the Iowa State administration that would involve a lower tuition rate for freshmen and sophomores and a higher tuition rate for third- and fourth-year students.
"This would allow the university to improve the quality of our programs and not just maintain our programs," Staudt said in the email to the regents.
Gov. Terry Branstad opposed this particular tuition model in September.
"[Students] can't afford to go to the state universities, so we don't want to penalize them by having a tuition for them in their junior and senior years," Branstad said.
Staudt said that while the Student Government has no opposition to the 2 percent undergraduate tuition increase that was approved, it had asked in a resolution that the regents "thoroughly evaluate and consider the comprehensive differential tuition model in place of the targeted differential tuition proposal."
"I thought that the board was going to do the right thing," Staudt said, adding that he feels that if the regents were to take a hard look at whether the model is sustainable, they would see that it's not.
"If they would have taken time to look at the new model in an objective way, they would have come to the same conclusion," he said.
Faculty Senate also sent a statement to the regents on the differential tuition increase and its disapproval, requesting that "the board reconsider the comprehensive tuition model in addition to the programmatic model introduced at its last meeting.
"In order to fully consider each option and to solicit additional feedback on this unified recommendation from ISU students and faculty, we also request that your decision regarding tuition policy be delayed from December 2016 to January 2017."
About the differential tuition rate
The differential tuition rate will be implemented over a three-year period and will equal the current architecture differential tuition rate in place, which is $1,600, when fully implemented. The proposed first-year supplement for 2017-18 is $534, according to Board of Regents documents.
In-state Iowan students in architecture will pay an extra $98, and non-resident students will pay an extra $106. Business students also will receive an increase that is different for resident students, $190, and non-resident students, $180. Animal science, biology, computer science, industrial design and management resources will pay the $534.
International students will also be asked to pay an extra $500 in tuition, which would be the second of a three-year plan approved last year that would implement a $1,500 supplemental increase.
When asked in October about his thoughts regarding the proposals, Staudt discussed what he feels are the possible threats created by a tiered system.
“I’ve expressed my concerns multiple times to the board about the growing divide between resident and non-resident tuition, especially as state funding continues to dwindle,” Staudt said. “The burden is being put on nonresident and international students.”
Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter addressed the regents during the meeting on their plan to make tuition increases transparent.
“Several years ago we began a process of doing the requests early so students, their parents and state leaders could know what our request would be in August,” Rastetter said. ”This year’s two-year model allows for this critical predictability towards planning and keeping students in public universities.”
Rastetter stressed that the process of creating the proposal began last summer and was “well organized."
“We additionally reviewed the request with the governor and he was excited,” Rastetter said. ”We don’t know if that means we’ll get approval but it’s certainly been met with approval in the [Iowa] Legislature as forward thinking.”
The Iowa State Daily's Alex Connor contributed to this story.