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Tuition freeze for all students at Iowa's 3 public universities would cost $14.5M, memo says

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa's three public universities would lose $14.5 million in revenue next year if tuition rates were frozen for all students, a scenario that school presidents said Tuesday would be hard to manage.

The Iowa Board of Regents is expected to vote Dec. 3 to set tuition rates for the 2015-2016 school year.

Its leaders announced last month that they plan to reject a proposed 1.75 percent increase for roughly 40,000 in-state undergrads at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, and instead freeze those rates for a third straight year. That will result in the schools foregoing $4.5 million in revenue next year, according to a regents' memo released Tuesday.

The regents also are studying whether to expand the popular freeze to the schools' 38,000 out-of-state, graduate and professional students for the first time, which would subtract another $10 million, the memo said.

The board's staff has recommended a proposal to raise tuition by 1.75 percent for nonresident and graduate students at UI and UNI, and by 1.2 percent for those students at ISU. While seemingly small, a 1.75 percent increase would increase tuition and fees by $481 for nonresident undergraduates at UI to $27,890 next year.

Regent Larry McKibben, who pushed for the in-state tuition freeze, said there is strong support among the board for that idea but it's unclear whether members want to go further. He said he would listen to input from university presidents as well as students.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2014 file photo, students walk across campus at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. University of Iowa President Sally Mason says Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 she would have concerns about extending a tuition freeze to cover nonresident and graduate students. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2014 file photo, students walk across campus at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. University of Iowa President Sally Mason says Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 she would have concerns about extending a tuition freeze to cover nonresident and graduate students. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

"I think this is one that all the regents are monitoring and listening to their constituents," the Marshalltown attorney said.

Speaking during a monthly news conference, UI President Sally Mason said the university could manage a third tuition freeze for resident undergraduate students but was cool to the idea of expanding it to nonresidents. She said the university will need money to hire more professors, as it plans to add a few thousand students in the next few years.

"In fairness to the taxpayers of Iowa, we absolutely should hold to our nonresident students paying the full cost of their tuition," Mason said.

As for graduate and professional students, she said their programs are far more expensive to deliver than undergraduate education because of the faculty support and lab equipment required.

Through a spokesman, ISU President Steven Leath said his campus could work with a tuition freeze for resident undergraduates but it would be "very difficult to go beyond that."

UNI's acting president raised concerns about any freeze last month, noting the school relies more heavily on in-state tuition revenue than the other two.

The regents voted last week to move forward with a consultant's plans to restructure human resources, information technology and finance operations on the three campuses, which could cut up to 250 positions and save millions of dollars. Some of the savings would be used for the freeze.

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