Raising the Price

After a series of cuts to the state education budget, the U of I has been forced to raise tuition

Lottie Gidal, News Editor

Emma Hartwig’s collegiate dreams are coming true; She has been accepted into the University of Iowa’s highly competitive nursing program, and has been offered two scholarships to attend.

“I really like helping other people,” Hartwig said. “I had surgery to have my appendix removed when I was 13 and that was when I really noticed nursing. The nurses just made me feel so comfortable, and they were so knowledgeable about everything I really looked up to them in that moment, that was what really got me interested. It’s just a field that I think I can be really passionate about.”

But when the time came in the spring for the University of Iowa to begin finalizing its tuition for the 2018-19 school year, Hartwig noticed something was off.

“They told me that nursing tuition was estimated to be a certain amount in the fall, and now on my financial aid letter it’s more than what they told me,” Hartwig said.

After a string of budget cuts in the last year or two from the state legislature, the University of Iowa has been forced to raise their tuition. The most recent came only a month into the 2018 fiscal year after the state announced a shortfall in its budget.

“These cuts are difficult,” Josh Lehman, Director of Communications for the Iowa Board of Regents said. “We certainly advocate for appropriations from the state, and unfortunately when the other source is tuition, we want to be mindful to find the right balance. But we do need to have the resources to provide a quality education.”

The Board of Regents is the group that oversees Iowa’s three public universities: Iowa State University, University of Iowa, and University of Northern Iowa. However, the Board of Regents has little control over how the schools are funded, that money comes from the state budget. If the universities are not receiving enough money from state funds, they are forced to raise tuition.

The University of Iowa chose to respond to the most recent shortfall ($5.49 million) by announcing a five-month halt to all construction projects. This will balance the budget, but staff say this is only a temporary fix, and that in the future there will quite possibly be cuts to programs.

Public universities play a vital role in our democracy. And we must all knowledgeably explain their importance and vigorously protect and defend their mission.”

— Lena Hill

Lena Hill is the interim chief diversity officer and associate vice president, senior associate to the president, and a faculty member in English and African-American Studies.
“Most of my current efforts focus on leading our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the UI,” Hill said.

For Hill’s department, the Chief Diversity Office, it means that two of their subunits, Center for Diversity and Enrichment and the Diversity Resources Team, will wait longer before moving into their new space in their new space in the University Capitol Center.

“These units have been waiting since the 2008 flood to move into this new space,” Hill said. “It is incredibly frustrating to have this midyear cut further delay our move into a space that will allow us to serve students, faculty, and staff more effectively as we work to make our institution as diverse, equitable, and inclusive as possible.”

These cuts at Universities across Iowa are only indicative of a larger national trend taking place, with cuts of federal funding for research on the upturn.

But the Midwest has been harder hit than some, as the home to a large number of public universities which lack the same kind of economic support system that places like Silicon Valley possess. Even without adjusting for inflation, the amount of money appropriated by the state 20 years ago was more than the University of Iowa would have had before the mid-year cuts.
Another consequence of these cuts is what some describe as a “brain drain”, or the loss of talented faculty to other, more well-endowed universities. Bruce Harreld, the current President of the U of I, cited this in a statement announcing a raise in tuition after the drop in state funding.

“To fulfill our mission of student success, research, scholarship, and economic development, the university must continue to recruit new talent and provide competitive salaries for high-performing employees,” Harreld said. “To do that, the university must increase its tuition so that it can compete nationally for the best and brightest faculty and staff. Requesting a tuition increase from the Board of Regents is not an action that the university takes lightly; however, it is now necessary in light of this continued generational disinvestment.”

The universities are also concerned that students are leaving Iowa after graduation, research conducted by the Board of Regents found that approximately half of all U of I and Iowa State graduates chose to leave Iowa after completing four years.

“We have a vested interest in making sure you get a good education,” State Senator Mary Mascher said. “That you are successful, and determine where you want to go to school so that we can support you in those efforts and hopefully we can keep you here. One of the things we worry about in Iowa is that we are an aging population. We are seeing a lot of that brain drain with kids going outside of state. And we get that that’s okay, kids need those opportunities too, but we also need you back, we need you more than anything.”

Lena Hill says one of the most troublesome aspects of the disinvestment issue is how it distracts from the University.

“I am frustrated by the way the discussion of the budget overshadows the amazing work unfolding across our campus,” Hill said. “The U of I continues to be a vibrant institution where students, faculty, and staff are doing incredible things.”

Hartwig agrees, saying that this raise will not change her decision to attend.

“I think the University of Iowa is a really good school,” Hartwig said. “I think that tuition is lower than some other private schools, but it’s supposed to be there as one of the lowest options for students who can’t afford other schools, so it’s kind of like difficult to hear that it’s not as low as people think, or that it’s increasing. Because for most people [the U of I] is one of their only options.”

“Public universities play a vital role in our democracy,” Hill said. “And we must all knowledgeably explain their importance and vigorously protect and defend their mission.”