The announcement last week that the University of Iowa must slash seven vital education programs, including the Labor Center, is further evidence of Governor Kim Reynolds’ failed leadership on public education. University officials said declining state aid was responsible for the cuts. Since 2008, state aid for Iowa’s public universities has fallen by 34 percent while tuition has increased by 40 percent. Last year the University of Iowa predicted tuition will rise another 41 percent over the next 5 years without increases in state aid.
The University of Iowa president placed blame for these changes on Reynolds and her GOP legislature’s cuts.
“We’re disappointed to be in this position because these centers and employees provide valuable outreach and service to Iowans,” Bruce Harreld, university president, said in a prepared statement. “But we can no longer ask our students to support activities previously supported by the state just a generation ago.”
Reynolds and the Republican-controlled legislature have repeatedly cut funding to Iowa’s public universities. The University understands that Iowa students and their families can no longer carry such a large portion of higher education funding through tuition. Iowa college debt has exploded by 28 percent over the last decade to an incredible average of nearly $30,000 per graduate. It’s putting college out of reach for many Iowans.
One of the regents, former Iowa state Republican Senator Larry McKibben, acknowledged that cuts to Iowa universities must end.
“We have lost great folks, and now we are going to have to raise tuition,” McKibben said, noting that will persist “as long as we continue what I believe is, in my time on the board, the worst state government attack on our three public universities that I can ever remember.”
Reynolds failure to adequately fund higher public education is denying Iowa students access to college. The closing of the Iowa Labor Center is the latest casualty of Reynolds and her legislative cronies’ war on public education funding.
However, the University has some responsibility as well. Why aren’t they pushing back on these cuts? Why didn’t they open the debate on the value of the Labor Center rather than unilaterally closing it without student or faculty input?
Colin Gordon, a research consultant at the Iowa Policy Project, says that closing the “Labor Center, the only academic center in the Regents system devoted to work and workers in Iowa, sends a terrible message to the state’s working families.”
In a recent Facebook post, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell left no doubt about who’s responsible for these massive cuts.
“This is the direct result of Kim Reynolds’ budget mismanagement and slashing of higher education funding. Plain and simple,” said Hubbell.
Hubbell has been consistently warning Iowans that these are the consequences of Reynolds fiscal mismanagement.
“For the last eight years the prior governor and current governor have been consistently reducing taxes and reducing investments in education and health care,” he said. “We’ve gone from No. 1 in the country in education to average. We’ve got employers screaming for more people and more trained people. The reason we can’t find them is because we’re not investing to keep our people here, we’re not investing to give them the kind of trained people they need.”
“Today, as the Republican-controlled Legislature and Reynolds have been cutting taxes, they also have been cutting support for health care, higher education, infrastructure investment, courts and other state services,” Hubbell asserted.
Hubbell is committed to reducing out-of-control tax give-aways with no accountability to help fund Iowa’s public universities and community colleges.
“We should be freeing up that money and using that money to fund the regents’ schools more effectively, and the community colleges, so they don’t have to raise tuition nearly as much,” Hubbell said.
In November the choice for Governor is clear. A vote for Fred Hubbell is vote to create a world class education for our children.
by Rick Smith