- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Students at Iowa’s three public universities would pay at least $300 more in the upcoming school year under a proposed tuition increase unveiled Tuesday.

The 4.4 percent increase for undergraduate students who are Iowa residents would replace a partial tuition freeze approved by the Board of Regents in December. The revenue would more than offset a funding shortfall approved by lawmakers in the budget signed by Gov. Terry Branstad last week.

For University of Iowa students, graduate students and students from other states, the plan would mark the second time the regents have raised their tuition for next school year. Regents are scheduled to vote on the increases at their meeting next week in Ames.

The regents voted in December to freeze tuition for resident undergraduates at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa and to increase the University of Iowa’s tuition by 3 percent, or $200. Board leaders had warned that those rates were contingent upon receiving additional funding from lawmakers and that additional hikes may be necessary.

The new $300 increase would raise tuition by 4.4 percent beyond current levels. That means University of Iowa students would pay 7.5 percent more next year than they did this year.

Board President Bruce Rastetter had told lawmakers that a funding increase “north” of $8 million would be needed to avoid further increases. Lawmakers gave the universities a $6.3 million increase, less than one-third of the $20.3 million the regents had requested. In response, the board directed the universities to come up with plans to raise tuition.

The new plan would generate even more than regents requested: $19.9 million in revenue to “assist the universities in managing inflationary expenses, meeting mandated salary increases, and directing these revenues to support teaching and student needs.”

Annual tuition for in-state undergraduates would rise to $7,178 at University of Iowa and $7,148 at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. The plan would mark the second year in which the regents raised tuition due to lower-than-requested state appropriations, following 2 1/2 years of freezes.

Students from out of state were already facing increases of over $500 under the tuition plan approved last year. Tuesday’s proposal would tack on another $400 for University of Iowa nonresidents, $300 for their counterparts at UNI and $100 at ISU. Graduate and professional students would face increases ranging from $50 to $300, beyond those already approved.

ISU President Steven Leath said the money would be used to improve the school’s student-to-faculty ratio, which has suffered as its enrollment has ballooned to 36,000 students.

“We understand any cost increase can be a challenge for students and their families. However, the revenue provided through this increase is absolutely necessary in order for us to maintain the academic quality and student experience that our students deserve and expect,” he said in a statement.

Board spokesman Josh Lehman said the plan reflects proposals developed by the universities to “allow for the best education for our students, without sacrificing quality.”

The estimated average cost for students would be nearly $21,000 when living expenses, books and other costs are included.

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