Legislature rejects increased funding for Iowa universities
Stephen Mally / The Gazette The old Capitol Building on the Pentacrest on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City was built in 1840. The last four Iowa territorial legislatures met in the building before Iowa made the transition to state. The first governor was inaugurated, the first six general assemblies of Iowa met, and the state constitution was drafted there. When the state government moved to Des Moines in 1857, Old Capitol was ceded to the University of Iowa.
Not only have Iowa lawmakers rejected a request by the Board of Regents to restore the $ 8 million they cut last summer in response to COVID-19, the Republican-led Senate approved this week a $ 1 billion education budget that rules out any increase in funding for the Iowa public. the universities.
The Board of Regents – which governs the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa – had asked lawmakers to restore the $ 8 million cut, then to increase general education appropriations by an additional $ 18 million for the coming budget year.
In her January budget proposal, Governor Kim Reynolds recommended a total increase of $ 15 million – less than the $ 26 million increase for general education the council was seeking, but bolstered by a recommended increase. $ 30 million for fiscal 2023, according to Reynolds’ proposed budget.
But the Senate-approved budget bill is now heading to Reynolds’ office for a signing to keep the regent’s funding flat for the new budget year – meaning tuition rates will likely rise above a 3% base hike at Iowa and Iowa State University, and possibly the University. from northern Iowa.
the Council of Regents in 2018 adopted a five-year tuition fee model for its UI and ISU campuses that promised 3% tuition increases for undergraduate residents if lawmakers respond to requests for council funding and higher rate hikes if the Legislative Assembly did not.
The model excluded UNI – because it is a smaller school with different competitors. And it has enabled larger increases in tuition fees for non-resident and graduate students and those in more expensive programs.
The goal of the tuition fee model was to give students and families direct visibility into future tuition fees, so that they could plan their university experience financially. But COVID-19 has prompted board leadership to suspend planned rate hikes, keeping frozen undergraduate residential tuition fees for the year 2020-2021 at $ 8,073 at UI, $ 8,042 at ISU and $ 7,665 at UNITED.
When the freeze was announced in the fall, board chairman Mike Richards promised that the model would resume thereafter.
“Due to COVID-19, suspending the five-year schooling model for one academic year was the right thing to do,” Richards said in November. “But by balancing the financial needs of our future institutions, we plan to resume the five-year education plan from the fall semester 2021.”
Public universities in Iowa are recovering from COVID-related expenses and losses, including enrollment drops and mid-semester student departures.
Democratic senators this week lamented the lack of increase for public universities.
“(Public universities are) three of the biggest economic engines in this state,” Sen. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, said during the debate. “If we’re going to get Iowa’s economy going, part of the answer is to attract and retain talent in this state. … The legislature must mobilize. “
Democrats proposed a funding increase of 3.1% for regent schools, which Democrats say matches the budgeted increase for community colleges and the same amount proposed by Governor Reynolds.
But this proposed amendment was rejected by Senate Republicans.
HF 868 carried by a vote of party line 28-17.
Without any increase in state funding, total funding for the Council of Regents will remain at $ 613.6 million. The board had wanted it increased to $ 642.9 million in total.
Republican lawmakers this session criticized Iowa’s public universities for violations of free speech – including the UI College of Dentistry’s handling of a White House diversity training guideline and curriculum of an ISU professor restricting in-class opinions frequently held by conservatives.
In response to these incidents, lawmakers have proposed a handful of bills aimed at free speech training and policy, eliminating tenure of professors and requiring employees to declare their political affiliation – among other things.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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