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Differential Tuition

In December 2005, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa approved a proposal for the College of Engineering at Iowa State University to implement differential tuition for engineering junior and senior students with 60 or more credits, beginning in summer 2006.

Differential tuition, sometimes referred to as supplemental tuition or a tuition surcharge, means that a college charges a rate of tuition above that which the university charges. Revenue from differential tuition supports academic excellence in Iowa State’s undergraduate engineering programs and an academic environment for student success.

Students entering Iowa State as freshmen will pay differential tuition no earlier than their fifth semester. Students transferring into engineering at Iowa State will pay differential tuition no earlier than their third semester. In either case, a student with fewer than 60 credits will not pay differential tuition.

Differential tuition is used by many universities nationwide. Sometimes it refers to the total tuition rate (sum of both the base tuition and incremental tuition), and other times it is defined as the additional tuition that is supplementary to the base tuition rate.
The following are frequently asked questions regarding the differential tuition. If you have further questions or comments, please email them to Tina Prouty, Scholarship Coordinator, at tnprouty@iastate.edu.

Answer: Differential tuition was phased in over four years starting in 2006, with each year’s differential tuition amount adjusted by the same percentage increase as the university’s base tuition rate, plus an additional amount per semester. As of 2009-2010, differential tuition has been fully phased in and will be adjusted annually by the same percentage increase as the university’s base tuition rate. For part-time students taking 11 or fewer credits, differential tuition is pro-rated during both regular semesters and summer sessions.
Answer: The mission of the college is to provide a quality education to its students, and financial resources are the means to that end. The cost of educating engineering students is greater than the cost of educating most other students due to highly laboratory-intensive courses, smaller section sizes, and the need to provide competitive compensation for world-class faculty. As the state’s share of the cost of education decreases and students pay for a larger share, we are now in the situation where tuition from students in programs with lower instructional costs effectively subsidizes the higher cost of educating future engineers.
Answer: The college currently awards more than $2.2 million annually in scholarships to its students. Also, by Board of Regents mandate, 15 percent of the additional tuition revenue goes directly toward financial aid for College of Engineering students.
Answer: Differential tuition revenue will be used to hire more faculty and equip state-of-the-art labs, both of which will improve the quality of instruction engineering students receive. In addition, differential tuition will provide additional student financial aid and teaching assistants.

Finally, there’s a clear economic incentive. Graduates of the engineering college earn substantially more than graduates of other academic programs at Iowa State. Starting salaries for Iowa State engineers average $56,321—$2,000 to $5,000 above the national average for all engineering graduates, and several thousand more than other Iowa State graduates. This represents a lifetime earning potential of almost $1.1 million more than non-engineers. The differences between engineers’ and other graduates’ starting salaries, projected lifetime earnings, and internship/co-op earnings far exceed any difference in additional cost due to the differential tuition.

Answer: Yes. Iowa State’s College of Business is phasing in differential tuition and will eventually charge its juniors and seniors an additional $750 per semester (prior to adjustments for annual percentage increases of the base tuition rate). The University of Iowa charges its juniors and seniors in engineering and business differential tuition as Iowa State does; and the University of Northern Iowa is implementing differential tuition for its business students.
Answer: If a student does not feel they have been appropriately charged Differential Tuition, students do have the right to appeal the tuition charge. Students should download and fill out the following Differential Tuition Appeals Form. All tuition appeals forms must be submitted by 5 p.m. of the tenth day of classes for consideration. A committee will review each individual appeal submission, and render a recommendation. Student will be notified to their university email account of the decision within two weeks of the submission deadline.

A comparison of rates are provided on the web under Registrar Office Tuition and Fees