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 students, 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.

For information on how Differential Tuition is assessed for undergraduate students, please visit the University Tuition and Fees Frequently Asked Questions site. Graduate students are assessed Differential Tuition at the time of entry.

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 Melissa Skinner, Scholarship Coordinator, at skinnerm@iastate.edu.

What is the amount of the additional tuition?

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.

Why should engineering students pay differential tuition?

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.

What is the college doing to ease the financial burden on its students?
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.
How will engineering students benefit from differential tuition?
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 several thousand dollars more per year than other Iowa State graduates. 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. Visit the Engineering Career Services website to see the latest salary statistics for Iowa State engineering graduates.

How do I appeal a differential tuition charge?
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

Contact Us

Engineering Students Services
1300 Marston Hall
Ames, IA 50011
Phone: (515) 294-9295
(800) 262-3810 ext. 9295,
Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–5 p.m. CST
E-mail: engineeringscholarships
@iastate.edu