Iowa regents to consider 3 percent tuition hike for spring semester, citing funding shortfall



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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Tens of thousands of students at Iowa's three public universities would pay $100 more for tuition next spring under a proposal released Tuesday.

The proposed increase comes weeks after Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed funding that lawmakers hoped would make a third straight year of tuition freezes possible for Iowa residents. The Iowa Board of Regents, who are appointed by the governor and are the universities' governing body, will keep a freeze in place for the fall semester but consider an unusual mid-year hike to make up for what it called a funding shortfall.

Under the plan the board's staff recommended Tuesday, tuition would increase by 3 percent for resident undergraduate students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. The nine-member board will discuss the proposal at a meeting next week, and is expected to vote in September.

Lawmakers approved small increases in base funding for Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, and kept the University of Iowa's funding flat. But in a compromise involving both political parties, they also approved an extra $6.2 million in one-time funding for the schools that wouldn't be built into the budget in future years.

Branstad used his line-item veto power to eliminate the one-time funding July 2, saying that it was "unsustainable" to pay for ongoing expenses with that money. He said at the time a tuition freeze would have been possible under his own budget proposal, which would have provided more funding but less than what the regents initially requested.

After two years of tuition freezes, "the lack of state appropriations to the Regent public universities puts a significant strain on education operating budgets," the tuition proposal says. The increase would generate about $3.5 million and help the universities meet rising costs to support teaching and student needs.

Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor was pleased to have worked with regents to freeze tuition for 2½ school years, noting that tuition had risen much faster under previous governors.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, a Coralville Democrat and key budget negotiator, said he didn't believe the regents had any choice but to raise tuition after the governor's vetoes. "The money isn't there," he said.

He said the proposed increase was "fairly minimal" but the universities need more funding and support in the future.

The increase isn't expected to change financial aid packages, but students who are affected "may have their concerns addressed on a case-by-case basis by each university." With the increase, tuition for the semester would cost $3,439 at the University of Iowa and $3,424 at the other two universities. About 40,000 students are expected to be affected.

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