The University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld proposes to raise resident undergraduate tuition by seven percent each year for the next five years. That follows Iowa State’s interim President Ben Allen’s identical recommendation of seven percent each year for the next five years. The plan calls for the base tuition to raise from $7,486 to $10,537, amounting to about a 41% over the next five years for Iowa college students attending Iowa and ISU. That is on top of the five percent increase approved for this fall.
Governor Reynolds said Tuesday that Iowa families can’t afford that large an increase. However, she took no responsibility for her budget that created this funding crisis for Iowa’s Universities. Let’s remember, it was the current Governor Reynolds, then Lt. Governor, that stood at Branstad’s side and said nothing as Iowa education funding was decimated by the Republican controlled Legislature.
On Tuesday Reynolds refused to give any guidance to either the Regents or Legislature on finding additional funding. Reynolds said the Regents should “work through the process” and said, “the Legislature is going to do what the Legislature is going to do.”
Iowans expect their Governor to lead. Reynolds should be directing the Regents and the Legislature with specific recommendations. Apparently, she is content to leave the state on autopilot and let others should solve her budget mess.
The Board of Regents’ Task Force was formed as a result of the Legislature’s decision to cut $30 million from the budget of our three state universities. The Task Force will take recommendations and will report back to the full board in September. The Regents plan to vote on their tuition recommendations in December.
The individual universities made it clear why they need this huge increase in tuition. The $30 million cuts have put Iowa’s three state universities in peril.
Ben Allen, interim President of ISU, warned last week that the university has “reached a breaking point…without adequate financial resources, the quality of an ISU education, the university’s contributions to the state’s economy and workforce, and its momentum in offering some of the nation’s top-ranked programs all are at risk.”
Iowa Republican legislators were clear about their priorities and higher education wasn’t one of them. The House-Senate education budget subcommittee voted 8-5 along party lines to advance the education budget that dictated these massive cuts. Republican Representative Cecil Dolecheck, co-chair of the committee, was candid about the Republican’s dismissal of the importance of education funding.
“Unfortunately, the money is less than what we had hoped, but that’s the situation that we’re in,” Dolecheck said. “I think this budget does establish our priorities.”
Iowa Democratic legislators warned during this year’s session that the Republican education cuts would punish Iowa students and their families with big tuition increases.
“It is a disgrace,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames. “I think the long-term consequences of this are going to be devastating. The result inevitably is going to be higher tuition.”
“This bill is nothing but cut after cut after cut after cut,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo. “Here we are today with what I would consider probably the worst education budget in Iowa history.”
Now Iowa college students and their families are seeing the tremendous damage as Reynolds’ complicity has resulted in proposed 41% increases in their tuition. She must also be held responsible for the miniscule increase of 1.1% in K-12 education. That in essence is a cut since it doesn’t begin to cover increased costs for schools.
Huge existing Iowa student debt with no increases in wages add to the misery that Iowa Republicans refuse to acknowledge.
The average college debt for Iowa graduating students is already nearly $30,000. The state’s student loan default rate is one of the five highest in the country. That is an enormous counterproductive drag on the Iowa’s economy. These students must put off home purchases, reduce other consumer purchases, delay marriage and starting a family due to this college debt burden.
However, Republicans weren’t satisfied with just increasing the cost of education, they cruelly refused to provide these same Iowa families the ability to pay for the increases. They stripped the four Iowa counties that passed the Democrats sponsored minimum wage increases. As Republicans’ education cuts resulted in a 41% increase in college, they cut the minimum wage back to $7.25 per hour in these four Iowa counties. In addition, they prevented any other counties from passing increases in the future.
Democrats must elect a Governor that will lead and take back control of the Iowa legislature if education is to get the priority it deserves.
by Pat Rynard