The Price to Learn: Iowa graduates will face financial hurdles in planning for skyrocketing college costs

In the fall of 2018, Iowa’s public universities proposed a 7 percent annual tuition increase over a period of five years, or 35 percent by 2022 due the shortfall in university funding from state budget allocations. However, as the Iowa Board of Regents, the governing body of the Iowa public universities, announced, these hikes would not be implemented until June of 2018.

This delay in the tuition increase has many students and their families worried about financial planning right before the new school year. Previously, tuition rates were announced in December.

“I have been working hard on applying for other scholarships as well, and I plan to continue applying for more,” said senior Molly Rygh, who plans on studying at the University of Iowa Tippie School of Business next year. “My family has always worked hard, and we have been saving for college since I was little. I think that this just means that I need to continue saving and being aware of my finances.”

The University of Iowa tuition proposal would increase resident undergrad rates 7.08 percent annually in the next five years— raising the cost of tuition from $7,486 to $10,537, which is nearly 41 percent, according to Bruce Harreld, president of the University of Iowa.

The hike is a result of recent slashes in Iowa’s public university budget. Now, Gov. Kim Reynolds has recommended stretching the decrease even further after taking back $20.8 million in state appropriations from the board of regents and nearly $10 million in 2018, as reported by the Waterloo Courier.

In 2017, the three public universities in Iowa were all promised general education appropriations of $513.7 million. When combined with Reynold’s recommendation, this would fall to about $479 million.

Reynold’s proposal, which also included a $1.8 million community college cut,  must be approved by the legislature, but after recent panic regarding a $35 million budget deficiency, funding for universities is shown to decrease rapidly, and universities are struggle with the need to keep up their quality of education.

House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, told The Globe Gazette, “We’ve already gone through the seven worst years for funding for public education,” he said. “We’re seeing Iowa families having to foot more of the bill for the UNI, ISU, UI. We’re seeing the highest tuitions, I think in the United States, for community colleges. More of that burden falls on Iowa’s working families than ever before.”

Counselor Susan Langan and her colleagues have been working to ease the tension on students brought on by these cuts. “The last couple years have been hard on all post-secondary education like K-12,” Langan said, “but what has been especially hit is community colleges and the three state universities.”

Langan said that universities in Iowa are trying to recruit kids and cut costs while also trying to maintain a quality education and sufficient resources. When numbers go down, colleges must make crucial decisions to lower or raise the cost of attendance, jeopardizing resource supply or student finances.

As for what can be done to ease financial burdens like many will be facing next fall, Langan said she looks to prepare students before they go to college, especially in their early high school years.

“Looking at it on our end, making sure kids understand the whole price of college,” Langan said. “We want you to have a better idea of what you’re going to major in so that when you go to college, you aren’t wasting time and money.”

She said there are many ways to accomplish this preparation so that students are not wasting time and money on an education that does not interest or help them. “Take classes that are up your allie, and do job shadows,” Langan said.

She also emphasized the importance of scholarships for seniors, which offer large sums of money based on applications using academic criteria or simple essays. “At the beginning of the year, we have 95 percent of seniors say that they want to apply for a scholarship. At the end of the year when we ask how many actually did, it’s probably not even quite half.”

Scholarships are an option that are easily accessed by all students. There are many scholarships accepting applications in the state, municipality and school, and more information on the options and processes is available through the counseling office.

Overall, Langan stressed the need for preparation before making pivotal financial decisions when costs begin to skyrocket.

“Make sure you’re doing as much college exploration as possible and finding out which is the right fit for you and figuring out how to determine the cost.”

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