Undergraduate Tuition - Frequently Asked Questions

Tuition rates are set by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. The rates vary by residency status (resident, non-resident, or international), level of study (undergraduate, lower/upper division, graduate, or professional), and field of study.

Tuition rates for part-time students (those taking 11 or fewer credits in a semester) are pro-rated and assessed on a credit hour basis. Students taking only online courses are assessed resident tuition rates.

Why is tuition higher for some academic programs compared to others?

Some academic programs charge higher tuition rates because the cost of delivering those programs is higher, and added revenue is needed to ensure a high quality educational experience. Undergraduate students at Iowa State pay higher tuition in the colleges or academic programs listed in the table below:

College or major


When higher tuition rates typically begin

Minimum semesters before paying higher tuition – direct from high school students**Minimum semesters before paying higher tuition – transfer students***

Upon entry into program and 60

Engineering60 credits61
Animal Ecology*60 credits61
Animal Science*60 credits61
ArchitectureUpon entry into programNANA
Agricultural Systems Technology60 credits61
Biology*60 credits61
Biology/Pre-Medical Illustration*60 credits61
Computer Science*60 credits61
Dairy Science*60 credits61
Forestry*60 credits61
General Pre-Veterinary Medicine*60 credits61
Genetics*60 credits61
Industrial Design*Upon entry into programNANA
Industrial Technology60 credits61
Microbiology*60 credits61
Pre Biology/Pre-Medical
60 credits61

Pre Computer Science*

60 credits



*Differential tuition for these programs will be charged beginning with the Summer 2017 semester.

**Number of semesters includes summer, and counts regardless of registration status.

***If entry term is summer, fall counts as the semester waived regardless of registration status.

NOTE: Students majoring in architecture or industrial design begin paying higher tuition rates when they are admitted into those programs.

If I enroll in one of the programs with higher tuition, will I have to begin paying the higher rate immediately when I arrive at Iowa State?

Students in programs that charge higher tuition typically begin paying the higher rate as junior and seniors (upper division status), once they have completed 60 credits. This is the point where much of students’ coursework is concentrated in their major.

Upper division status is evaluated at the beginning of each semester. A student with 57 credits at the beginning of the semester, for example, would not pay the higher rate.

Why did the tuition rate recently increase for students in my major?

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, approved higher tuition rates in 2016 for specific academic programs (noted with an “*” in the table above). These rates will take effect beginning with the Summer 2017 semester.

Based on feedback from students, Iowa State plans to phase in the new higher tuition charges over three years (i.e., students will be assessed one-third of the increase in the first year; two-thirds in the second year; and the full amount beginning in the third year).

For future years, the tuition rates for these programs will be adjusted by the same annual percentage increase as the university’s base tuition.

Are the higher tuition rates also assessed for the summer semester?

Yes. However, most students typically take only 1-2 classes during the summer, so in those cases the higher rates would be assessed per credit hour.

Why should upper division students pay higher tuition? 

Iowa State strives to provide a quality education to every student, and financial resources are important to meeting that goal. Class sizes tend to get smaller during the second half of students’ degree programs, featuring increased levels of specialization, additional laboratory and experiential learning opportunities and, in many cases, more personalized interaction with faculty.

According to a recent Board of Regents report, the FY2015 undergraduate cost of instruction – which represents actual costs related to instruction, research, academic support, student services, and other items – was $12,682 for upper division students, compared to $9,008 for lower division students, a $3600 difference.

Charging the higher tuition rate also helps ensure that students in programs with lower instructional costs are not subsidizing the students who choose to major in higher cost programs.

What about students who earn college credit before they arrive at Iowa State?

Many students earn a substantial number of college credits in high school, but in some cases, not all of those credits may transfer to the their degree programs. However, students entering Iowa State directly from high school will pay the higher tuition rate no earlier than their seventh semester (regardless of enrollment), even if they have more than 60 credits due to credit earned in high school.

When students are charged higher tuition rates, how are those revenues used?

Iowa State programs that charge higher tuition rates use the added revenue to hire additional faculty, which lowers the university’s student-faculty ratio; maintain high-quality laboratory equipment and staff; and to expand high-impact experiential learning opportunities for students.

How do I appeal my tuition rate?

If a student feels they are not paying the appropriate tuition rate, they have the right to submit an appeal to their academic college, following the guidelines established by that college.

What is Iowa State doing to ease the financial burden on its students?

Iowa State takes the issue of affordability very seriously, and has launched a variety of programs and initiatives to help students manage and even lower their debt:

  • President Leath has lead efforts to raise over $200M for student scholarships through his Moving Students Forward initiative – this effort has provided over 23,000 students with support since its inception
  • The average debt load for Iowa State graduates has declined 8.5% in the last three years (and 11% for resident students)
  • Iowa State opened a Student Loan Education Office in 2014, providing one-on-one advising to help students understand budgeting, responsible borrowing, and how to “live like a student”

It is important to note that, even after fully implementing higher tuition for upper division and international students, Iowa State’s overall tuition levels remain low compared to our peers.