Lowering Tuition at Iowa State University

Cassie Reichter

The Background of the Costs of Tuition at Iowa State University

Iowa State University is a land grant school which, among other things, means that the university gets money from the state of Iowa from the taxes that residents pay to the state. Because of this in state residents who choose to go to the university do not have to pay a large amount of money while out-of-state residents have to pay almost twice as much. Iowa State University does not have reciprocity, meaning that even residents from the surrounding states, Minnesota, Illinois, etc., have to pay full out-of-state tuition. Out-of- state residents have to pay about $9000 a year for tuition, while Iowa residents pay only about $2500 per year. (See fig1 for semester costs)

Undergraduate Cost of Attendence


Semester Cost

Resident Non-Resident
Room/ Board
Books/ Supplies $342 $342
Fees $109 $109
TOTAL $3,929.50 $7,209.50

Source: Iowa State University Homepage, www.iastate.edu/~fin_aid_info


Tuition helps to pay for all of the services and programs of a University. However, some universities put more money into one or two programs or colleges to make them stronger areas of study within the university. Not all colleges or departments throughout a university have the same quality of classes or facilities. For example, Iowa State University invests a great deal of their money in the engineering and agricultural programs and so increases the quality of those programs. This is how students choose which university is best for them. A student bases his decision on what college to attend by looking at what programs a particular university invests in and on whether those programs pertain to his area of study. For example many students come to ISU because of the strong engineering program. The students that come to Iowa State are not all Iowa residents. The out-of-state residents are the ones who have to pay a great deal of money to attend the university. These students should not feel that many of the doors to the kind of education they would like have been shut in their face because of the amount of money it costs to attend many universities. To help solve many problems for out-of-state students, their tuition for attending Iowa State University should be set around $5000. By setting it at an amount that is only about $3000 less than the present out-of-state tuition it will make it much more affordable for the students and the University will not lose money.


Needs for Changing the Tuition at ISU

The needs for the decrease in out-of-state tuition at the university can be seen in several areas, such as the community diversity, availability of education to all, and the income based discrimination of students. Iowa State university does not have a very diverse community. During the 1998-1999 school year 78.8 percent of the total population at Iowa State University was of Iowa residency. Many of the Iowa residents are from the surrounding area of Ames, IA, where Iowa State is located. Only 17.6 percent were non-residents but United States citizens and the remaining 9.6 percent were international students (ISU Fact book). The percentages were even lower in the incoming freshman class of that year (see fig 2). This shows that Iowa State students do not encounter very diverse crowds and as the incoming classes become even less diverse the students become less exposed to different cultures.

Enrollment by Residence in 1998

Fig 2.

  Number Percent

New Freshmen


Iowa Resident

2,816 74.5%
U.S., Non-Iowa Resident 891 23.6%
International 72 1.9%

Undergraduate (including New Freshmen)


Iowa Resident

16,408 78.0%
U.S., Non-Iowa Resident 3,529 16.8%
International 1,098 5.2%

Source: Iowa State University Homepage, Office of Institutional Research

(Source: Office of the Registrar)


Although the diversity of the incoming classes is not increasing, the incoming students each year is. With the increasing number of students coming into the university every year, in-state tuition is increasing very rapidly. The university board is thinking of yet another increase in tuition for the 2000-2001 school year by 4.3 percent (Hauser, 1). By increasing the in-state tuition the out-of-state tuition will go up as well. This increase will cut down even more on the numbers of students from out-of-state. It will also affect the ability of students to afford the education that they want. This is especially true for out-of-state students. Therefor the out-of-state tuition needs to be lowered so that more students will be able to afford to attend college. Non-Iowa residents should be able to have the same opportunities to attend college in this state as the Iowa residents do.


Whether in-state or out-of-state residents, there are at least 20,000 students attend Iowa State. Many of these students have to work to pay their own way through college. And several of them receive little, if any, help by way of scholarships from the university. In fact, most of the awards given out are given to Iowa residents (see fig 3). As seen by the figure the largest amount of money was awarded as State of Iowa Scholarships.

Student Financial Aid Programs Academic Year Awards by Type, 1997-1998

Fig 3.

Scholarships 20,189 $31,035,566
Institutional Need Based Scholarships 2,855 $2,364,959
Institutional Academic and Talent Scholarships 8,736 $12,697,707
Federal Graduate Fellowships and Assistants 776 $8,074,141
Federal Health Professions Fellowships 5 $16,552
Corporate/Private Scholarships 7,459 $7,737,607
State of Iowa Scholarships 345 $136,800
Iowa Centennial Memorial Scholarships 13 $7,800

Source: Office of Institutional Research (Source: Office of Student Financial Aid)


However, the other students who are not residents of Iowa do not get very much money at all, at least not enough to cover the out-of-state tuition. These students want to attend a school that has a good program for their major just as much as the Iowa residents (i.e. engineering at ISU) so that they will be ensured a good professional position when they graduate. Yet many of them cannot afford to make it all the way to graduation because the cost is too high for them to pay. The students often have to quit school to work so that they may eventually save enough money to come back.. By lowering the tuition at ISU students will be able to continue in their course of study without worrying as much about the cost of a good education.


A good education is dependant on many things, but the greatest factor is the type and quality of a university that a person attends. However, those factors depend largely on how much money a person is able to pay and so the caliber of their education directly reflects their family’s wealth. Iowa Sate University is not as expensive as some private universities but for out-of-state residents it can be very comparable. The amount of education a person receives here at Iowa State or at any university depends mostly on how much they are willing to work and learn. A bright student cannot be discriminated against in attending college just because his family is not as wealthy as others or, in this case, whether he lives in Iowa or not.


Benefits for Changing Tuition at ISU

The largest benefit of lowering out-of-state tuition at Iowa State is that it will encourage diversity. If Iowa State were to lower the tuition for out-of-state students, more people from across the nation would want to attend. The university puts a great deal of emphasis on diversity and international studies, but it could put more emphasis on national studies as well. By working to attract people from across the nation and around the world, the university would be exposing their students to new people, cultures, and ways of thinking, therefore increasing students’ awareness of others. As students graduate they will find that not everyone is from Iowa and, as a Minnesota resident attending ISU, I think it is a good idea to have more representation from the other states at Iowa State.


By increasing the number of out-of-state students the university would also be increasing the number of people that are being educated at a higher level. To be able to get professional job in today’s society, a person needs to be well educated. If Iowa State University lowers the out-of-state tuition it will be enabling more students to get the education they need to compete. With the tuition at the rate it is now, the university is only educating a select few. Although universities do need to be selective in choosing who to accept into their school, the state in which a person lives should not be a deciding factor. All people should at least have a chance to get into college. Some of the most intelligent people in the world are, by far, not the richest. The only thing stopping them from attending a great school like ISU is money. The benefit of lowering the tuition is that more people will be able to attend a quality university and so get higher and more respectable positions in the professional world.


Another benefit for lowering tuition at Iowa State is that the school will still receive enough money to fund its programs and be a great school, but students will not have to worry as much about finances and what type of an education their money will buy. Many people have lost the opportunity to learn because their money could not cover it. Yet education is something that cannot be bought. By decreasing the tuition students would be able to better afford their education and therefore would be able to devote more time to their studies rather than their finances and working. Although college students would still struggle with trying to make ends meet, it would not be half as much trouble for them. This in turn would create a better learning atmosphere for many college students.


Feasibility of the Change in Tuition at ISU

The out-of-state tuition at Iowa State University has always been higher than that of in-state tuition. Residents from out-of-state have always been upset about the amount of money that they have to pay to attend the school. In fact several out-of-state residents have tried before to change tuition, however, not many have joined forces to try for change. It is hard to find a majority of out-of-state residents here at Iowa State considering they are only about 20 percent of the entire population. However, with a great deal of effort it would be possible to a least start a change.


Change does not happen overnight and it certainly does not happen without work. The decrease in out-of-state tuition to $4000 per year would not be extremely costly to the university and its programs ,or to you, in fact it would cost nothing but time. The time would be spent working to form petitions and making up a plan that could be submitted for review by the college board and other boards involved in University affairs. If you are willing to put in some time and energy, the ways of Iowa State could be changed.


Where to Start

There are many things that can be done to try to change the tuition costs at ISU. There are many students boards and other governing committees that will help one in trying to get their point heard. There are several ways to get in touch with these people. The fastest way is to send an email to anyone that is involved with any school board at Iowa State.

The Governing Student Body (GSB) here at ISU is very active in what goes on with the university. They work with the president of the college and other members of the ISU faculty who are working for change as well. If you would like to help in changing the way things are done and you want to be heard, get in contact with members of the GSB or other university boards. They are all working for us as a student body. In fact, you could even run for a position to get more involved in what goes on "behind the scenes", so to speak.


The easiest way to get a hold of someone in the GSB, or any other offices would be by email. To get more information and email addresses of the offices go to the Iowa State University web page at www.iastate.edu. From there you will be able to reach any office or department of the University. Just keep in mind that it is the student’s job to voice their opinions to the University, and it is the university’s job to listen. Without us, there is no Iowa State!

Works Cited

Hauser, Andrea. "Regents Increase Tuition by 4.3 Percent." Iowa State Daily 22 Oct. 1999: 1.


Iowa State University Office of Financial Aid. (No date). How Much Does It Really Cost? [Online]. (1998). Available http: http://www.iastate.edu/~fin_aid_info/ General Topics/cost.html [1999, October 29].


Iowa State University Office of Institutional Research. (No date). ISU Fact Book [Online]. (1998-1999). Available http: http://www.iastate.edu/~inst_res_info/factbk.html [1999, October 29].