On Monday May 8, 2017, UISG President Jacob Simpson spoke on behalf of the 23,000 undergraduates attending the University of Iowa, in regard to the recently proposed tuition increases by the Iowa Board of Regents. “You must take action now to ensure that all students have access to a quality, affordable education at the University of Iowa in the future," President Simpson said, addressing the Board of Regents. You can find the full transcript of President Simpson's address below:
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this proposal to increase tuition.
I represent the undergraduate students who will attend the University of Iowa in the fall—I wish you could hear my words amplified by their 23,000 voices. Too often the people impacted by a political decision are not heard directly by the decision-makers themselves. I would like to thank President Richards for allowing time for public comment in future Board meetings. You must hear more student voices than mine.
The reality of the situation is that the University of Iowa lacks the revenue necessary to continue providing the world-class education it has offered to students for over 170 years. Rankings are falling; faculty are leaving; strategic initiatives are going left unfunded. The Iowa Legislature decided to place our university in this position as they cut appropriations by $9.24 million mid-year and by $6.24 million this coming fiscal year. As the Legislature has pulled back their support, the burden of paying for our university has shifted to students.
Last December, the Board built the 2+2 tuition model to ensure that students and their families could predict the cost of attending the Regent Universities. However, the model was built on the unrealistic assumption that state appropriations would increase by 2% for two years. The 2+2 tuition model allowed for the avoidance of hard discussions about the political and economic environments that the Regent Universities are submersed in. The result of poor decision-making is yet another unpredicted tuition increase: $216 for residents and up to $1,196 for nonresidents.
I urge you to speak about this proposal in terms of absolute dollars rather than in terms of percentages because the percentages hide the magnitude of the burden being placed on nonresident students. Nonresidents will be charged $862-$980 more than residents. Nonresident students bring their brilliance and the backgrounds, perspectives, and identities, often not found in Iowa. If you value diversity for its contributions to our community and to learning, you cannot continue punishing nonresidents at the University of Iowa for the sake of maintaining relatively equal resident tuition with the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.
Keep in mind how tuition increases harm students. In Iowa City, housing costs are the highest in the state and according to a survey conducted by the Food Pantry at Iowa, 33% of the students who responded were food insecure. The proposed tuition increases equate to multiple months of rent or groceries. When tuition increases, students are forced to choose between receiving an education and receiving a meal or a roof over their head.
In addition, students will need to rely more on loans and work more hours to fund their studies. According to your annual student financial aid report, “each additional $1,000 in unsubsidized federal loans makes low-income students 5.66% less likely to graduate in six years” and “working more than 20 hours per week impedes student success.” Students who are financially disadvantaged will forgo high-impact activities like studying abroad, leading a student organization, doing research, or serving the community. Their job placement after graduation will be negatively impacted when they do not have as much experience to offer as their more advantaged peers. Remember that University of Iowa students are future residents of this state; their success at the University of Iowa will have a direct impact on the welfare of the state.
Students understand that the increase in tuition is necessary for the well-being of our university. However, you must take action now to ensure that all students have access to a quality, affordable education at the University of Iowa in the future. Before your June meeting, at which this proposal may be passed, I propose that you take the following actions:
Begin developing a realistic five-year outlook for tuition for the Regent Universities;
Include student government representatives of various backgrounds from the Regent Universities on the task force that will discuss the future of state appropriations; and
Lobby for the Iowa Tuition Grant to be used at all the Regent Universities.
By taking action now, you will ensure that tuition changes are predictable, that all students are included in decisions about how their money is spent, and that our financial aid programs best support the students most in need at our public universities. Your action now will define your leadership. It will show your commitment to students, their families, and the State of Iowa.
Jacob Simpson, UISG President