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Students ask for more state support in face of tuition raises

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - The Iowa Board of Regents presented a list of proposed tuition increases Thursday, that would raise tuition as much as 3.75% at one university. Undergraduate and graduate students from the three universities addressed the board, saying we need to rework the state budget next year to allocate more funding.

“We need systemic changes in our funding model to make the cost of attendance affordable and possible for each and every young person in our state who chooses to pursue higher education," Regan Smock said, president of the undergraduate student body at the University of Iowa.

The proposed scale would raise tuition and "mandatory fees" at each school:

  • UNI resident tuition: $7,665 to $7,780 (+$115)
  • UNI nonresident tuition: $18,207 to $18,480 (+$273)
  • U of I resident tuition: $8,073 to $8,356 (+$283)
  • U of I nonresident tuition: $30,036 to $30,319 (+$283)
  • ISU resident tuition: $8,042 to $8,324 (+$282)
  • ISU nonresident tuition: $23,230 to $24,136 (+$906)

A BOR spokesperson says each university submitted their own proposed tuition changes.

Going from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2021, the Republican-controlled state legislature reduced funding to the three universities by $8 million; going from $494 million to $486 million.

Going from FY2021 to FY2022, the legislature kept their funding at $486 million, despite the BOR asking for a $18 million increase, and to be reimbursed the $8 million that was taken in 2020.

“Students need our state legislature to acknowledge these institutional roles as not only an economic powerhouse in our state, but a fundamental part of our shared experience as Iowans," Smock said. "The burden of financing Iowa’s colleges and universities should not be placed squarely on the shoulders of young people hoping for a better future."

In the final weeks of the 2021 legislative session, Democrats advocated to give the schools more money.

"Twenty-five to 30% of the incoming undergraduate class are first-generation students. And those students need affordable tuition," Sen. Joe Bolkcom said, D-Iowa City.

Republicans say they aren't sure the regent universities are spending their money appropriately.

“We have some serious questions about how the regents are operating their budgets. While enrollment has been going down, administrative costs have continued to go up. Until some of these concerns are addressed, we felt it is important that we are responsible with taxpayer money and leave the Regents at the same funding level as the previous year," Rep. David Kerr said, R-Louisa County. Kerr is the chair of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Democrat Bolkcom believes Republicans are abandoning higher education because they think the colleges are too liberal. He says this is evidenced by 2021 laws like HF802, which limited diversity trainings, and HF744, which further protected student free speech on campus.

"The Republicans are fighting the culture wars by not funding the universities. It's their way to show we have too many liberals," Bolkcom said.

The proposed tuition changes are scheduled for a second and final reading on July 28.

A recording of Thursday's BOR meeting.
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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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