The Iowa Board of Regents gave their first approval today to a 3.2 tuition increase at state universities next year, the lowest increase since 1980.   Keeping tuition affordable at our state univerisities was one of the top priorties of Democrats in the Iowa Legislature last year.

The scoop from the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

“Students at Iowa’s state universities will likely pay a 3.2 percent more in base tuition next year, after the state Board of Regents gave initial approval to proposed tuition increases today.

The tuition increase requires a second formal approval at the board’s December meeting in Cedar Falls.

The regents, meeting today in Iowa City, voted 5-3 to approve the proposed increases for 2008-09. Regents Michael Gartner, Ruth Harkin and Rose Vasquez voted against the proposal because they supported a lower increase.

An earlier motion, made by board President Gartner, to amend the tuition proposal to a 2 percent base increase, failed by the same 5-3 margin.

The presidents of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa all said a 3.2 percent increase is reasonable and is necessary for the universities to keep up with rising inflation and operating costs. Anything less could equal a step backward, the presidents argued.

Gartner, Harkin and Vasquez said they wanted to see a lower increase to provide more relief to students and their families and to recognize the historic funding support provided last spring by the Legislature and Gov. Chet Culver.

The 3.2 percent tuition increase is the smallest since 1980, when base tuition increased by 3 percent, Regents Executive Director Gary Steinke said.

UI in-state students would pay 4 percent more in tuition and fees overall under the plan, while ISU in-state students would pay 3.2 percent more in tuition and fees and UNI in-state students would pay 3 percent more in tuition and fees.

Tuition and fees for out-of-state undergraduates would rise 6.1 percent at the UI, 2.5 percent at ISU and 2.2 percent at UNI.

It’s a far cry from double-digit increases imposed in the early 2000s and comes at a time when educators and graduates worry about tuition-related student debt.

The regents’ staff was required by policy to submit a proposed tuition increase within the inflationary percentage range of the projected Higher Education Price Index, which for 2008-09 is 3.2 percent to 4.5 percent. Steinke said that while the proposal must fall within the inflationary range, the regents can set any increase they want. “

And the story from the Des Moines Register:

“The Iowa Board of Regents voted 5-to-3 to give initial approval to 2008-09 tuition increases that average 3.2 percent.

Regent President Michael Gartner lobbied for lower increases of 2 percent to signal appreciation to the Iowa Legislature, which granted the universities their full budget request of $65 million earlier this year.

“My own view is that we could do something for the students and the parents by holding it down in this coming year and see what the legislature does (next year),” Gartner said.

The presidents of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa said the average 3.2 percent hike would barely keep up with increasing operating costs. The 3.2 percent increase is the lowest for Iowa’s public universities since 1980. The lowest was 3 percent in 1980.

Gartner, Rose Vasquez and Ruth Harkin voted against the average 3.2 percent increase. Regents David Miles, Craig Lang, Jenny Connolly, Jack Evans, and Bob Downer approved the plan.

The board must formally approve the increases at its December meeting.

Under the proposal:

The University of Iowa would charge undergraduate residents $6,524 for tuition and mandatory fees in 2008-09, a 4 percent increase from this year. Nonresident undergraduates at U of I would pay $20,638, a 6.1 percent increase from this year.

Iowa State University resident undergraduates would pay $6,380, a 3.2 percent increase from this year. Nonresident undergraduates at ISU would pay $17,350, or a 2.5 percent increase, from 2007-08.

University of Northern Iowa resident undergrads would pay $6,378, a 3 percent increase from this year’s tuition and fees. UNI’s nonresident undergraduates would pay $14,596, an increase of 2.2 percent from this year.

Tuition and fee increases in 2007-08 ranged from 3.3 to 12.7 percent, depending on residency and program of study. Engineering students pay higher tuition.”