More Iowans, as well as out-of-state and international students, have come to Iowa State, sparking record enrollment over the past few years.
However, Iowa state funding has yet to match the enrollment growth that Iowa State has seen in its eight consecutive years of record enrollment.
During his annual address in early September, President Steven Leath said Iowa State had $12,700 in state appropriations per resident student in 2008, which has declined to $9,400 per resident student from the state today.
Because of this, Leath said the university has had to make up the revenue streams through tuition and fees, which accounts for the most recent tuition hike.
The resources offered to students are in many ways paid for by their tuition and fees, which are lower for in-state students.
Katharine Suski, director of admissions, said the lower tuition rate for Iowa students is taking into account state funds meant to offset some of the costs for Iowa taxpayers to receive higher education or send their kids to school, which is part of the university’s goals regarding accessibility and affordability.
While enrollment has grown, state appropriations have not followed suit.
“We will continue to call on state lawmakers to increase support for higher education, and we will lobby aggressively for more funding,” Leath said. “But we must be realistic about the state’s economic situation — including the slowing farm economy and shifting priorities in the legislature. As a result, we must make adjustments to the revenue stream that we have the most control over … and that’s tuition and fees.”
Nonetheless, Leath also addressed remaining true to the university’s mission as a land-grant institution by serving the state and making it accessible.
Beyond the tuition increase, the declining state funds influence available student resources. The amount budgeted toward students services has not increased in the same increments as enrollment growth.
“It has a tremendous impact,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Martino Harmon. “We have a number of departments that are solely funded by state funding.”
Student Counseling Services, SCS, relies heavily on state funding rather than student fees. Relying on private funding for programs like SCS would be somewhat unreliable, Harmon said, and the two typical funding models for these resources are state funding or student fees.
In August, Harmon brought a proposed $12 heath fee increase for the next fiscal year to be allocated to Thielen Student Health Center and the Student Counseling Center. Student Government voted unanimously to support the increase.
“I’m very passionate about affordable education,” said Jane Kersch, a Student Government senator and senior in global resource systems. “The state has chosen to divest away from state funding and rely more heavily on tuition.”
Kersch said she would think the state would care about offering services like mental health resources and finds it frustrating that another fee has to be pushed onto students as a result of the lagging state funding.
“I don’t think the state legislature is allowing Iowa State to live up to its land grant mission by forcing us to raise tuition,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to take on thousands of dollars of student debt to go to a public land grant institution.”
Lagging state funding of higher education is not unique to Iowa.
“Despite steadily growing student demand for higher education since the mid-1970s, state fiscal investment in higher education has been in retreat in the states since about 1980,” according to a 2012 report from the American Council on Education.
Universities are left with two options to account for the lack of state funding, tuition increases and budget cuts that diminish key resources on campus, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The impact of the declining funds is something that's been a challenge for the past five or six years, Harmon said.
"We really don't want to raise fees because we understand that affects students," he said.