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The Associated Press March 23, 2011, 5:32PM ET

Iowa regents approve university tuition increases

Tuition will spike more than 40 percent for University of Iowa freshmen nursing students, while some engineering students' will see their tuition increase 20 percent, under a series of tuition hikes approved Wednesday by the Iowa Board of Regents.

The board approved a 5 percent tuition increase at the state's three public universities for all in-state undergraduates, in addition to higher fees, to offset dwindling state aid. That means their tuition will climb by $308 per year at the University of Iowa and $306 at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. The 5 percent hike will generate $17.4 million for the schools.

Presidents of the three universities said the increases are critical to maintaining the quality of education after several years of state budget cuts. The hikes take effect this fall.

The plan also calls for double-digit tuition increases for students in some programs that university officials said are more costly to offer. Those include a 41.1 percent increase in base tuition for in-state freshman nursing students at the University of Iowa, which will bump their tuition to $8,662 per year. Sophomore engineering students at the school will see a 21.3 percent increase in tuition, to $7,436.

Some regents hesitated before the board voted 7-2 to approve the tuition increases. Regent Michael Gartner, who along with Regent Ruth Harkin voted against the increase, said the board wasn't serving its duty.

"It's really our responsibility to keep tuition down and we are not serving the needs of students by raising tuition," Harkin said.

Student leaders from the three universities also said they opposed the increase but understood that sacrifices must be made.

"I understand the balance that must be struck, but ultimately I believe this asks too much of students," said John Rigby, student president at the University of Iowa.

The increases mean that in-state undergraduate students at the University of Iowa will pay $6,436 in tuition, while Iowa State University and Northern Iowa students will pay $6,408 per year.

But increases in fees at each school will bump the costs even more. A 3.1 percent fee increase at the University of Iowa will increase students' bill to $7,765; a 20.4 percent increase at Iowa State raises the cost to $7,485; and the University of Northern Iowa's 4 percent increase results in $7,350.

The plan also includes tuition increases for nonresident students. Tuition for undergraduate nonresident students at Iowa will increase 6 percent to more than $23,700; at Iowa State the tuition for nonresident undergraduate students will go up 3.5 percent to $18,200; and at Northern Iowa tuition for nonresident undergraduates will rise 5 percent to more than $15,000.

Several of the regents said they voted hesitantly to approve the increases but said it was necessary.

Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffrey said regents needed to decide soon because students and parents needed time to plan. He also said waiting any longer could negatively impact enrollment.

"Timing is important because parents need to know the financial implication when they make decisions on where their student will attend," he said. "We need to make financial aid offers now."

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