Tuition rates at Iowa’s three public universities has increased 30 percent since the 2009-10 academic year. Rates are expected to jump again for the 2018-19 academic year.
Kathy A. Bolten/The Register
Students at Iowa’s three public universities, bracing for stiff increases to the cost of attending school, have begun letter writing and social media campaigns criticizing a proposed minuscule increase in state appropriations.
The Iowa State Daily, in a front-page editorial this week titled “No funding, no future: Prioritize higher education funding,” chastised Iowa lawmakers for recent cuts to universities’ budgets while also trying to boost the number of skilled workers in the state.
“In what world does it make sense to make college less affordable at a time when we need more people to have education beyond high school?” the editorial asked.
Before publishing the editorial, the Iowa State Daily staff solicited letters from student government leaders at the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa, a move that hasn’t been done in recent memory.
“We wanted to get the conversation started,” said Emily Barske, 21, a senior and Iowa State Daily editor. “A lot of times when tuition increases happen, we say ‘OK, we’ll have to deal with it’ and move on.
“We wanted to do something more this time. There are students rethinking whether they can continue to go to Iowa State.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, in budget proposals just released for the fiscal year that begins July 1, recommended that Iowa State University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa receive a combined $486.2 million in state aid.
That amount falls short of the $495.3 million university officials had requested. The request included an additional $12 million for student financial aid.
The three universities currently receive $483.3 million in state appropriations.
Presidents from Iowa’s three public universities have proposed annual tuition hikes over the next five years of 7 percent at ISU and UI and between 1.75 percent to 11.7 percent at UNI, depending on state funding.
The Iowa Board of Regents is expected to discuss next school year’s tuition rates at its Feb. 21-22 meeting. A final decision is expected in June.
“A 7 percent increase each year is going to kill students,” said Cody Woodruff, 20, an ISU sophomore who is vice speaker of the Student Government Senate. “It makes you wonder how some students are going to stay afloat.”
In a letter to the Iowa State Daily, UNI student government officers wrote that the Cedar Falls institution cannot “continue to take these blows to our budget while retaining the high standard this institution holds itself to.”
Jamal White, UNI’s student government president, said students are concerned about the proposed tuition increases and worry about the timing of the regents’ final decision on next school year’s rates.
“We don’t want the regents surprising students with unexpected increases,” said White, 21, a senior who is majoring in business. “It could mean some can no longer afford it.
“For myself, even just a $100 increase makes me worry about affordability.”
Mitchell Dunn, 20, a UI junior and Student Government’s director of governmental relations, echoed his peers from ISU and UNI.
“Now it is looking that we could have a tuition increase that’s pretty dramatic,” said Dunn, an economics and political science major. “If that happens, how can we keep saying we have institutions that are accessible and affordable for everyone?”
Barske, the Iowa State Daily editor, said the publication will continue its campaign during the semester to keep costs for college affordable. She said the publication is soliciting letters from parents, alumni and faculty and staff.
In addition, it is using Twitter to publicize links to the letters.
“It’s just not a money thing — it’s whether someone can pursue their education,” she said.
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