The most important aspect of the University of Northern Iowa culture is our unwavering commitment to fostering student success.
I’m proud to say we know our students as individuals and we do everything possible to support their ambitions. When it comes to progressing toward graduation, we work to remove the obstacles that can sometimes stand in their way.
It’s what we refer to as making UNI accessible, and for us that means several things.
- Making tuition and fees more affordable and reducing student debt. Earlier this year, the UNI administration — and a contingent of dedicated students — partnered to do something very few universities attempt: We wanted to become more affordable for our in-state students.
With this goal in mind, we worked with the Iowa Board of Regents to place a freeze on tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 academic year. This was made possible due to additional funding secured by our legislative partners, who listened to the compelling stories of our incredible students, students like Matt Johnson.
Johnson recently graduated with degrees in public administration and political science and was the director of Government Relations for the Northern Iowa Student Government. Having an accessible education for all UNI students is something he advocated for this legislative session, even though there would be no benefit to him, because he saw how important it is for students to have access to a high-quality education.
While the freeze on tuition and fees is a huge success for our students and families, knowing how to plan financially during college prepares them for even more success after graduation. UNI’s financial literacy course “Live Like a Student” ensures our students will have the tools to set financial goals, create a budget, live within their means and plan for their future — all steps that help reduce debt and secure their financial future.
UNI is already a recognized national leader in reducing debt, and the lack of a tuition increase only enhances our state’s reputation for educational value.
- Continuing our focus on a high-quality, accessible education. We are consistently recognized nationally for the high-quality education we provide our students and the incredible impact we make on the individuals, communities and businesses we serve.
Take, for instance, UNI’s impact on advancing the state’s manufacturing sector. We’re providing skilled graduates the training they need in cutting-edge technologies through our Additive Manufacturing Center and Metal Casting Center. These programs help meet the needs of the high-demand fields our growing state requires.
Another recent success story centers on our student entrepreneurs in the College of Business Administration, who are starting their own businesses with the help of the R.J. McElroy Student Business Incubator. This program is impacting not only the state of Iowa, but also how our students learn and grow as individuals and professionals.
- Helping students graduate in four years or less. When students move through their degree programs at a consistent, full-time rate, they graduate in fewer semesters and, typically, spend less on their education and accrue less student debt.
We’re having strong success. In fact, our four-year graduation rate is nearly 40% greater than the average of similar institutions. It’s a point of pride for our institution — and for these graduates, who will move into the Iowa workforce and contribute to our economy at a faster rate.
A focus on high-quality education that is accessible and affordable only helps UNI build on our legacy as one of Iowa’s higher-education pillars. We’re focused on the success of our students, and we’re proud to help them discover how they’ll make a positive impact throughout their lives.
Mark A. Nook is the president of the University of Northern Iowa.