As Board of Regents weighs potential tuition increases, 'is college worth it?'

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) - The Board of Regents will consider a potential increase at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University in June, bringing with it a common question: is college worth the cost?

A final vote on the proposed increases will occur at the board's June meeting, and the potential increased would take effect in Fall 2019.

The undergraduate tuition increase for Iowa resident students at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, along with a mandatory fee increase of 2.4 percent, would result in a total tuition and fee increase of 3.7 percent. That would amount to $339 at Iowa and $331.50 at Iowa State.

At Iowa, out-of-state students would face a 1.0-percent increase in tuition, with the same increase in student fees, for a total increase of 1.1 percent, or $336.00. At Iowa State, those students would see a 4.9 percent increase in tuition with the same increase in student fees; that would account for a total increase of 4.8-percent, or $1,115.50.

According to research from Georgetown University, whether or not it makes sense to pay that tuition, may have to do with what degree students are paying for.

Dr. Nicholas Bowman, a Professor of Higher Education and the Director of the Center for Research in Undergraduate Education for the University of Iowa, said there are a number of studies that back up his stance that attending a four-year university can show success.

"There is evidence that people who attain a college degree actually have benefits for their children in terms of the health of their children, their education, their well being," Dr. Bowman said. Dr. Bowman also cited better health for people that attend a higher level of education.

In a study from Georgetown, it shows the further someone goes with their education, the more money they could potentially earn.

Dr. Bowman also cites a university's ability to allow students to figure out what specifically they want to do.

'When you have the option of say around 100 majors that you can pursue, by taking some of this early course work can really help you find your direction," Dr. Bowman said.

Lori Sundberg, the President of Kirkwood Community College, does not dispute that research. She believes that two-year schools like Kirkwood, however, can provide a cheaper alternative and a door to a four-year university degree.

"All kinds of research is out there, that if you look at a student that's completed higher ed, they're going to earn more- that's just the bottom line," Sundberg said.

But another study from Georgetown shows while higher education can earn you more money, but it depends on what you major in. People who complete a bachelor's degree can see a difference in lifetime pay as high as $3.4 million based on what a person receives their degree in.

As far as finding a potential career, Sundberg looks at Kirkwood as the perfect place at a cheaper initial cost.

"I think if they're going to go on to a university, it's the best way to package a bachelor's degree," Sundberg said. "Lower cost overall, and still come out with a bachelor's degree from their favorite university."

For a student preparing for what comes next, walking a college campus or training for a trade- Sundberg encourages prospective students to keep their options open.

"I tell them to not eliminate the whole notion of trades," Sundberg said. "Because right now the trades are going gangbusters.

For others, the debate continues.

"It's certainly the case that people might ask themselves whether it's worth it but the evidence strongly suggests that it is.," Dr. Bowman said.