Northern Iowa Student Government

Tuition Speech to the Board of Regents

By: Spencer Walrath on Thu, 10/27/2011 - 11:09

This morning I spoke before the Board of Regents on the proposed tuition and fees increase and also on the need to adjust state appropriations to better fund UNI. The Regents will not vote on increasing tuition and fees until their December meeting, which means that you still have time to make your voice heard. A transcript of my speech is included below.

Good morning. My name is Spencer Walrath and I am a senior  from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, studying music, psychology, and political science at UNI. I have the honor of serving the students of the University of Northern Iowa as their student body president and I want to thank President Lange and the members of the Board for the privilege of addressing you today.

Before I talk about the proposed tuition and fees increases, I want to present some background information on UNI.

UNI's budget situation is unique and contrasts with the University of Iowa and Iowa State's. 92 percent of UNI's students are residents of Iowa. This compares to 64 percent at Iowa State and 57 percent at the University of Iowa. This means that UNI pulls in dramatically fewer out-of-state tuition dollars than our sister schools, which negatively impacts our bottom line.

Earlier this week I was asked a very interesting question, "Why does the state of Iowa contribute to public education?" In my opinion, the simple answer is, "To educate Iowans." By educating our workforce, our state becomes stronger and more productive. With that in mind, I now ask a question in return, "What other 4-year institution caters to Iowans as well as we do?"

Despite UNI's success in attracting and educating Iowan students, the state of Iowa has disinvested in our resident students, and UNI receives the least amount of state appropriations per student out of the three universities. For fiscal year 2011 UNI received $7,502 in state appropriations for every resident undergraduate student. This amount is $3,300 less than similar students at Iowa State University and $10,126 less than similar students at the University of Iowa.

UNI provides a valuable service to the state of Iowa by training our graduates to be outstanding in their professions and communities. Many of our students go on to be world-class educators, accountants, and entrepreneurs. What's more is that we do a great job of encouraging our graduates to stay in Iowa where they help the state grow and prosper. 60 percent of UNI alumni live in Iowa, which can be compared to 39 percent at Iowa State University and 33 percent at the University of Iowa.

It is clear from the data I have mentioned that UNI is an excellent resource for the state of Iowa and also, in my opinion, underappreciated and undervalued by the State. I believe the UNI's proportion of state appropriations should be reassessed and adjusted to give UNI a greater share.

I've spent the last few weeks talking to UNI students about the tuition and fees increases and I've heard two competing sentiments. The majority of students that I've spoken to have supported the tuition increase. They support the increase because they understand that without it, UNI faces an even greater deficit than it already has. Students want to maintain the high quality education they currently receive. They want their specific programs to continue and they also want to continue to have a variety of options when selecting courses to satisfy their Liberal Arts Core requirements.

UNI students cherish our small class sizes. For many students it was a deciding factor when they chose to come to UNI and there are many students who are willing to pay the cost of the tuition increase if it means maintaining their small class sizes.

However, other students have made it abundantly clear to me that they do not want an increase in the cost of their tuition. I have received several emails from students and spoken to many more that are upset with the proposed tuition increase and have asked me to take a stand. These students feel that the time has come to stop increasing tuition year after year and that we must send a message to the state of Iowa that we wish for them to reinvest in students, who are the future of this state.

I believe that we have reached a turning point. Students have been willing to cover our share of the costs, but we are now doing more than our share. When students are paying for almost 60 percent of the cost of their education at a public university, something in the formula must change.

These tuition increases have had and will continue to have an enormous impact on people like me who grew up in lower class families. UNI students, on average, come from lower levels of social economic status more so than students at other institutions. These students do not have the same financial resources available to them that other families do.

However, students who come from poor backgrounds have federal grants available to them for the explicit purpose of helping them cover the cost of tuition and making higher education accessible to those who need it most. We need it because an education is the only way for students to break out of the lower class. For me, graduating from college means that I do not have to go back to the trailer park I lived in when I graduated high school.

The problem is that Federal Pell Grants max out at $5,500. A few years ago, when tuition and fees were around $4,000, these federal grants were a good deal. You could almost afford to live on campus with the money left over. But when tuition and fees are proposed at $7,635, federal aid will not cut it anymore. Even if a student received the maximum amount of aid, $5,500, they would be $2,135 short. Add to that amount an additional $7,686 for room and board and $4,132 in other costs, and you are looking at $13,953 that is unaccounted for by federal aid. Where will that money come from?

When we continuously raise tuition, we make higher education inaccessible to students like me. These are students who have faced a lot of adversity and have emerged stronger as a result. These are students who have diverse life experiences, are hard working, and driven to succeed. These are students that are ideal future Panthers, Cyclones, and Hawkeyes, and a degree from a 4-year university is their ticket to a better life. And these are students who, when tuition increases year after year, are denied the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed.

I said it was a privilege to appear before you today, and I truly mean that. It is a privilege because, if I were a high school senior looking to attend UNI next year, I would not be able to afford it. I feel blessed that I have been able to attend UNI for the last 4 years. If I had not attended UNI, I would not have developed the leadership skills that bring me before you today.

I believe that it is vital that we keep higher education affordable and accessible to all students, but every increase in tuition pushes us further from that goal. I support this year's tuition increase, but I call upon the Board to find a different solution for covering costs in the coming years. Thank you.

UNI I Am A Hero - Josh Wilson

By: Spencer Walrath on Mon, 10/24/2011 - 20:52

This week's UNI I Am A Hero is Josh Wilson!

"There are so many reasons Josh deserves these accolades that it would not be possible to list them all in one email. Here are a few reasons why:

1. He is a mentor and a role model to students of all ages at UNI. His network of friends is incredible, and he goes out of his way to help anyone and everyone who has probably never done a thing for him.

2. His work for Colleges Against Cancer has raised thousands of dollars. He works endlessly to promote this cause on campus, and never settles for complacency.

3. Josh knows a great deal of people around campus including faculty, Deans, and politicians outside of campus who can make a difference for students on campus. Josh has made it his duty to work tirelessly for his fellow students by pushing the changes his fellow classmates desire, but lack the power to change.

4. His presence on campus makes this school so much more than it actually is. He has devoted his life to helping others, and is truly a hero in not only my eyes, but literally thousands of people around the Cedar Valley.

Josh Wilson has done more than enough to deserve this award." - Brendon Brauer

Congratulations Josh on your nomination!

Don't forget to nominate your friends and co-workers to be recognized as a UNI Hero! Write a brief statement that details why they are a hero, including their name and email address, and email it to

Go Panthers!

Events of the Week - 10/24 to 10/30

By: mojohn on Mon, 10/24/2011 - 08:44

Tuesday, October 25 and Wednesday, October 26 - Satellite Voting
9 AM - 3 PM, Maucker Union Coffeehouse
Come to the Maucker Union to vote in the 2011 general election and remind your friends to stop and vote, as well!

Wednesday, October 26 - Building Capacity For Men's Violence Prevention Conference
8 AM - 4:30 PM, Commons Ballroom
The purpose of the Men's Institute is to stimulate thought and discussion around mentoring, being a role model for others, and to offer and present innovative and cutting edge approaches to engaging men in violence prevention strategies on college/university campuses and in communities across the state of Iowa.Learn more here:

Wednesday, October 26 and Thursday, October 27 - Board of Regents Meeting
The Board of Regents of the State of Iowa are meeting at the University of Northern Iowa this week. To view the agenda, click here

Friday, October 28 - ISA "Night of the Living Dead" Halloween Dance
7 - 11 PM, Commons Ballroom
The International Student Association is putting on their annual Halloween dance. This event is open to everyone. ISA will accept donations for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. The first 100 attendees will be entered into a raffle and there will be a prize for best costume.

Apply for the Robert and Yvonne Koob Fund for Student Community Engagement

By: Spencer Walrath on Tue, 10/18/2011 - 21:54

Are you planning to take an internship position in Iowa? Apply for the Koob Fund! It provides financial support ranging from $1,000 - $3,000 to undergraduate and graduate students in any academic discipline at UNI.

Learn more an apply at

Applications are due by November 14th and are to be submitted jointly by a student and the host organization. Internship applications will be selected for their potential to benefit the student, the sponsoring organization and the community. Internships may serve throughout Iowa at non-profit organizations, city, county, state federal government agencies or UNI outreach programs.

UNI I Am A Hero - Julianne Gassman

By: Spencer Walrath on Tue, 10/18/2011 - 07:30

This week's UNI I Am A Hero is Julianne Gassman!

Dr. Gassman is an Assistant Professor of Health, Physical Education & Leisure Services, Executive Director of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, and Associate Director of Camp Adventure Child and Youth Services.

"Julianne is truly a hero. She is a hero for her students when she makes time to meet with each of them and give them advice and guidance to prepare them to reach their own goals. Dr. Gassman is a hero when she transforms over 50 students into nonprofit professionals annually through her tireless work with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. Lastly, Julianne is a hero when she engages in our community by serving on the Volunteer Center board and leading nonprofit trainings. Dr. Gassman also plays an instrumental role in local, state, and national nonprofit associations and organizations.

Dr. Julianne Gassman has changed the lives of students on campus, helped better life for people in our community, and led improvements for organizations in the Cedar Valley and throughout the State of Iowa. I know she is my hero and I am only one of the hundreds of students who have known her and admired her throughout her time here at UNI." - Amy Costliow

Congratulations Julianne on your nomination!

Don't forget to nominate your friends and co-workers to be recognized as a UNI Hero! Write a brief statement that details why they are a hero, including their name and email address, and email it to

Go Panthers!