Iowa State University president Wendy Wintersteen on Tuesday predicted next school year’s tuition rates will increase at least 3.5 percent, a hike that falls short of the amount officials requested but will allow pay raises for employees.
ISU officials have asked that tuition increase 7 percent each of the next five years if the state’s financial aid remained stagnant.
“We knew fairly quickly that (7 percent) was a number that wasn’t very well received in Iowa,” Wintersteen said during a meeting with Des Moines Register editors and reporters. “It was jarring to students and to their families.”
Wintersteen said she doesn’t believe Iowa Board of Regents members will approve a 7 percent tuition rate hike but rather an increase that’s closer to 3.5 percent.
Most of Iowa State’s 6,000 full-time faculty and staff did not receive pay raises this fiscal year, she said.
“We have to give a salary increase this year,” said Wintersteen, who was named Iowa State’s president in October; her first day on the job was Nov. 20. “I cannot afford to be in a position at ISU where we lose our very best faculty and staff to the opportunities they have.”
A tuition increase of at least 3.5 percent will allow for pay raises, she said. But “if it could be a little bit more than 3.5 percent, that would be good.”
Tuition for most undergraduate Iowa State students this year is $7,456. A 7 percent rate increase would push tuition to $7,978; it would grow to $7,717 with a 3.5 percent.
Unless tuition rates grow substantially more, it will be difficult for the university to decrease the current average of 19 students-to-one faculty member ratio, Wintersteen said. The university’s goal is a student-to-faculty ratio of 16-to-one.
“I want to assure our parents and our students that we are committed to having the very best student experience in the classroom and outside the classroom that’s possible,” said Wintersteen, who previously was dean of ISU’s college of agriculture and life sciences.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, in budget proposals released last week for the fiscal year that begins July 1, recommended that Iowa State, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa receive a combined $486.2 million in state appropriations. University officials requested $495.3 million in state aid, which includes $12 million for student financial aid.
Iowa lawmakers will deliberate over Reynolds’ proposals and make their own recommendations. Final decisions will be made at the end of the legislative session, either in April or May.
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 regents are expected to discuss tuition proposals in February and make a final decision on next school year’s tuition rates in June.
Students at Iowa’s three public universities have begun letter writing and social media campaigns criticizing the proposed minuscule increase in state funding. Some students worry that they will no longer be able to afford attending state schools.
Reynolds, in her budget proposals, recommended a $5.1 million mid-year budget cut to the regents. Wintersteen said Iowa State would likely absorb half of that budget reduction. However, she didn’t provide specifics on where the cuts could occur.
Reynolds also proposed not providing money to pay for more than $54.7 million in construction projects at Iowa’s public universities.
Iowa State had asked for $20 million to help pay for the construction of a new $124 million Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Much of the facility, which performs more than 1.2 million exams and analyses each year, has not been updated since the building’s construction in 1976. The exception was the addition of some laboratory space in 2004, according to the 2019 Iowa Budget Report.
“There simply isn’t adequate space for the work that needs to be done there,” Wintersteen said. “There’s not adequate biosecurity. (The lab) is attached to a hospital where animals are there to be treated… It’s a critical need, not just for Iowa State University but for Iowa.”
Wintersteen, however, said she was heartened to see that Reynolds included money for a new diagnostic lab in her proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2020.
Construction projects in limbo
Iowa Board of Regents officials and the presidents of the state’s three public universities requested more than $54.7 million to pay for construction and deferred maintenance and fire safety projects on the schools’ campuses.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, in budget proposals for the fiscal year that begins July 1, recommended just $22.5 million be appropriated for the projects.
Projects Reynolds is proposing not be funded include:
- The Industrial Technology Center at the University of Northern Iowa. Officials asked for $2.1 million to update and expand the center, built in 1974. An addition would include new laboratories, offices and classrooms. Cost of the entire project is estimated at $36.2 million. Officials planned to ask for additional money over the next two budget years.
- A new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Iowa State University. Officials asked for $20 million. When the facility opened in 1976, it employed 31 faculty and staff, a number that has since grown to 145. The cost of a new facility, which would include new technology to better respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases, is estimated at $124 million. Officials planned to ask for additional money over the next two budget years as well are raise money privately.
- Updates to the Main Library at the University of Iowa. Officials asked for $15.6 million to renovate the facility. The project’s $21.5 million first phase includes a new warehouse to store 5 million volumes. The library is the university’s largest academic building, with more than 427,000 square feet of space. Delaying renovations likely means increases to the cost of improvements, Jeneane Beck, a spokeswoman for UI wrote in an email.
- Fire safety/deferred maintenance totaling $17 million to facilities on all three campuses. The regents requested $20 million to update and make safety improvements to campus facilities. Reynolds recommended the regents receive $3 million.