UNI: the most affordable, highest value university in Iowa


Karla DeBruin

Although the pandemic has impacted higher education across the nation, UNI is to continue to look for ways in making higher education more available.

Kristin Woods, Guest Columnist

Editor’s Note: Kristin Woods Ph.D is the current Senior Associate Vice President and enrollment management and student success at the University of Northern Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa is a comprehensive university serving our state and region, with a proud history of offering our students exceptional academic and co-curricular programs which lead to strong career outcomes. Students who attend UNI engage with dedicated faculty and staff on a daily basis, both inside and outside the classroom, building the kinds of relationships and skills that provide them a significant advantage after graduation. When paired with UNI’s lowest net cost of all public universities in Iowa, the high value of a UNI education is clear.

From the 2020-2021 academic year to the present, UNI has the lowest net cost for Iowa resident students of all three public universities in the state, both overall and at all income levels, as documented in U.S. Department of Education data. Net price reflects the cost of attending a university after scholarships and grants. UNI’s work to lower costs for students is grounded in our relentless focus on student access and success. This commitment to keeping costs low and quality high translates to exceptional value for our students.

Regional comprehensive universities like UNI are often referred to as the people’s universities given their focus on teaching and emphasis on access and opportunity for a diverse student body. As compared to larger research-focused universities, UNI and our comprehensive university peers are greater drivers of social mobility, enrolling a larger proportion of students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds and making a larger impact on moving students to higher income quartiles after graduation (de Alva & Christensen, 2020).

UNI’s future is bright. While declining birth rates and pandemic recovery have created some setbacks in enrollment, we know who we are and who we serve. Our campus community is investing in new and existing academic programs that align with workforce needs. We are creating streamlined degree completion pathways for students returning to higher education after a time away, and using new recruitment strategies to reach students whose college search process was disrupted over the past two years. Even during the COVID-19 impacted years of 2020 and 2021, UNI’s new freshman classes grew in size, bucking trends of decreased new student enrollment faced by other institutions in Iowa and across the country. We will build on this momentum with the resilience and innovation needed to be an accessible and affordable university for the people of Iowa. With exceptionally strong programs and the state’s lowest net cost, the value of a UNI education is higher than ever.