IOWA CITY – When the Iowa Board of Regents suspended its five-year tuition plan of staggered annual increases in June and Instead, it froze rates amid pandemic conditions that forced online classes and students to reconsider college plans, with the regents suggesting that the freeze could unfreeze in the spring.
"The board may re-evaluate the tuition and mandatory fees for the spring 2021 semester later this fall as more information becomes available," according to the governing tuition documents in June.
When the full board meets next week for the last time this calendar year, its chairman Mike Richards will address tuition, according to board spokesman Josh Lehman. The details of what he will say have not been made public.
But University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, speaking to Iowa City service groups on Thursday, suggested he is urging a return to planned five-year tuition increases that "created certainty for students. parents, families and students ".
Harreld did not specifically say when he thinks the regents should revert to the tuition model, which promises annual rate increases of at least 3 percent for college students residing at UI and Iowa State University. Under the plan, if lawmakers fully fund regents' assignment requests each year, tuition increases will remain at 3 percent. If not, rates could increase further.
Referring to the generational disinvestment of the state in higher education, which has made its support $ 8 million lower today than in 1998, Harreld cited the need to find resources elsewhere, such as tuition.
"We've lost that here a little bit recently with the pandemic," Harreld said Thursday of the boost in tuition revenue gained through the augmentation model. "And really, really, I'm encouraging the state and the Board of Regents to get back to that."
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All three Iowa public universities saw enrollment drops this fall. Without the planned rate increases, that meant below-budget tuition revenue to the tune of $ 4.4 million overall, or $ 1 million less than expected for UI, $ 1.9 million below expectations for the state of Iowa. and $ 1.6 million under the budget for the University of Northern Iowa.
Advocating for the need for more funding from both the state and students on Thursday, Harreld also emphasized that campus growth is not a strategy for success in these times of high headwinds in higher education, particularly for institutions in the Midwest and the East Coast. .
These regions are seeing demographic changes that are expected to reduce the pool of college prospects, increase competition for the best and brightest, and create dire circumstances for some institutions, which now face the additional burden of education in the middle of a pandemic.
Physical growth can mean empty classrooms, empty dorm rooms and too many employees, he said.
Harreld explained some strategies to weather the storm Thursday, including improving the metrics that matter on the ground and in rankings that help attract students to campus, such as retention and graduation rates, research productivity, and closing achievement gaps. yield.
He stressed that UI should focus on continuing to excel in its areas of expertise, such as writing and art programming.
Despite his caveats that physical growth on campus is not a strategy for success during these times, Harreld also highlighted lessons from these COVID-19 ravaged semesters that show students want in-person instruction and experiences.
"I think a lot of people come to the conclusion that the whole world will move online and we will never be a residential campus again," he said. “But I think now we realize that if you spend some time with our students, they will be quite frustrated with this learning environment. I think many of them wonder how much they are really learning.
“It is monotonous. It's boring. It's hard to do. "
Harreld said the campus is doing all it can to keep students academically engaged.
" However, we have to remind ourselves of the importance of not only of the learning environment ”, he said,“ but also of the social learning that continues and of all the rest of our environment and how important it is. ”
Harreld, who announced in October plans to retire as soon as a successor can begin, spoke the same day the Board of Regents announced the selection of a search firm to help find his replacement. The board will pay AGB Search, of Washington, DC, a flat fee of $ 90,000, plus expenses, for his assistance in advertising UI's presidential vacancy, recruiting, selecting, arranging for interviews, and conducting background checks.
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AGB Search will also assist and advise "in the preparation and implementation of a transition plan for the new president, the university administration, and the campus community."
Harreld has vowed to stay until a new president begins and acclimatizes to campus, denying the need for an interim leader.
The board also used AGB Searh for its presidential search for the University of the North of Iowa in 2016 that led to Mark Nook and his 2017 Iowa State University presidential search that identified internal candidate Wendy Wintersteen as the top candidate.
The board paid AGB a flat fee of 110,000 $ 85,000 for assistance with the ISU search and a $ 85,000 fee for assisting with the UNI search, not including expenses.
Before AGB, the board used Parker Executive S earch for his three previous presidential searches in 2011 in the state of Iowa, 2012 at UNI and then in 2015, when Harreld was hired. But Parker was criticized during the process he handed over to Harreld, and since then the board has taken a different direction.
"Hiring a college president is one of the most important functions of the Board of Regents," said Regents CEO Mark Braun. “AGB has a long history of being able to help recruit prominent university presidents. After discussions with the committee co-chairs and review of all applications, we are confident that AGB will be able to provide great support in this important process. ”
Seven search companies responded to the board's request for proposals, most of which charged a flat fee of more than $ 100,000.
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