IOWA CITY — A task force created by the Iowa Board of Regents will begin a series of meetings focusing on how to set tuition levels at the state's three public universities.

The regents created the Tuition Task Force in response to more than $30 million in state funding cuts to the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

The cuts caused the board to increase tuition for the second year in a row.

"(Tuition reform) is a significant priority," said Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, the ranking member of the joint Education Appropriations Subcommittee. "We cannot continue to shortchange the universities and pass along the cost of higher education onto Iowa families."

The board has asked the universities to create a five-year plan to address revenue concerns. The task force is scheduled to hold meetings this month to get public feedback on the financial plans.

"We are looking to have a transparent dialogue," said Regent Larry McKibben, a former Republican state senator who is leading the task force.

Proposals could include creating tuition tiers that would charge juniors and seniors more tuition than freshmen and sophomores because of more specialized and advanced coursework. Universities may also propose increasing tuition for out of state students to make up for the falling levels of state funding.

University leaders said they hope to provide more opportunities for financial aid to help with the tuition increases.

"As we take our tuition up, clearly we are placing a financial burden on an awful lot of people," UI President Bruce Harreld said. "Consistent with that increase, we also need to be increasing our student financial aid — both merit as well as needs-based. In our budget models, we've already included that."