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October 15, 2002

Delay sought on tuition increase

From: Cedar Rapids Gazette, IA
Oct. 15, 2002

By Tom Walsh
The Gazette
Tuesday, October 15, 2002, 9:38:40 AM

IOWA CITY -- University of Iowa Student Government President Nick Herbold is busy fine-tuning a plea he'll make Wednesday to encourage the Board of Regents to defer until next year final action on a proposed 17.6 percent tuition increase for Iowans at the state's public universities.

The regents meet Wednesday and Thursday in Cedar Falls at the University of Northern Iowa to continue debate on a tuition plan proposed in September. Final action is expected at their November meeting at Iowa State University.

"We'll suggest that whatever increase they approve be conditional on state appropriations," Herbold told The Gazette.

"If the state Legislature is able to increase funding for the regents' institutions, then the tuition increase may not need to be this high."

At issue is a plan to increase tuition for the 2003-04 school year by $650 for UI, ISU and UNI students who are Iowa residents and by $1,300 a year for non-residents. That 17.6 percent increase would follow an 18.5 percent tuition increase for the current school year.

Add proposed fee increases and the annual bill for Iowans would be $4,993 at the UI, $5,028 at ISU and $4,916 at UNI.

The current and proposed increases are the regents' response to $124 million in state funding cutbacks since July 1, 2001, for Iowa's three public universities and its schools for the blind and deaf.

Student leaders from each university are to address the regents Wednesday.

"We want to put pressure on the state Legislature," Herbold said. "If (the regents) take final action now, before the Legislature even meets, the Board of Regents' hands are tied. We want the regents to be able to come back later, and make changes, if they can. What I'm really asking is that they delay any final decision."

Under Iowa law, the regents are required to make a "final decision on an increase in tuition or mandatory fees" no later than the board's regular meeting in November.

Does that mean the board could revisit their tuition policy if the amended tuition schedule represents a reduction, not an increase?

"I don't know," said David Fisher, a regent from West Des Moines who is a lawyer. "That's probably a legal technicality that the Attorney General's Office would have to help us sort out."

Even if the board could legally revisit its November tuition decision, it likely wouldn't, Fisher said Monday.

"I don't think the regents will be interested in reopening the tuition discussion," he said. "Even if the Legislature was extraordinarily generous to us, there are still tough times ahead for us. We need to play catch-up in a lot of areas, including salary issues and deferred maintenance of campus buildings.

"My own personal view is that I wouldn't want to get back into a discussion of tuition."

Greg Nichols, the board's executive director, said the November deadline for tuition action complicates budget planning.

"It puts us in the position of asking for extraordinary levels of tuition increases because of the uncertainty of the future funding on the state side," he said. "It's also a disadvantage in terms of assessing where Iowa's public universities stand in comparison to other states, because we set tuition so much earlier than they do."

Copyright © 2002 by Gazette Communications - Cedar Rapids, IA