Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Iowa's Public Universities Ask Lawmakers For Funding Increase To Offset Tuition Hikes

regents presidents
Joyce Russell/IPR
The presidents of Iowa's three public universities in 2018.

Iowa’s three public universities asked lawmakers Tuesday for an additional $18 million after raising tuition, and amid plans by two universities to raise tuition again.

The presidents of the University of Iowa and Iowa State University said their requests for $7 million each would go to financial aid for undergraduate students as they continue to raise tuition.

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen said she is optimistic, but if the request isn’t met, the financial burden will continue to shift to students in the form of bigger tuition hikes.

“What do we want our reputation in Iowa to be?” Wintersteen asked after her presentation to lawmakers. “Historically for 100 years, it’s been about supporting education, having an educated workforce, supporting innovation in science—so what do we want Iowa’s reputation to be?”

The budget ask comes after the Iowa Legislature cut about $41 million from the universities over the past two years because of state revenue shortfalls. Lawmakers restored $8.3 million for the current fiscal year, and while the state is cautiously optimistic about its revenue for the fiscal year starting July 1, it’s unclear how much they will restore to Iowa’s public universities.

The universities have responded by raising tuition, freezing pay, getting rid of some scholarships, and delaying maintenance.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is asking lawmakers to give the universities $18 million, as requested. Republican statehouse leaders, however, did not sound enthusiastic about restoring funding to the universities at a pre-legislative session forum with reporters.

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said although he might sound like a broken record, the universities still need more funding. He said lessons he learned in the private sector apply here.

“Simply put, you’re either investing new resources and thus adding value and building a winning culture, or you’re cutting, reducing value, and creating a downward failing spiral,” Harreld said.

ISU and UI increased Iowa resident tuition 3.8 percent for the current school year, and University of Northern Iowa tuition went up 2.8 percent.

UNI President Mark Nook said $4 million from the legislature would mean he could avoid raising in-state tuition. He said UNI is more expensive than all of its regional competitors.

“That’s not the place we need to be if we’re going to pull students into the state, if we’re going to continue to grow the population and the workforce of this state,” Nook said.

UI and ISU still plan to increase resident tuition 3 percent if they get their full funding request, but the presidents say the additional state funding will help lower student debt. If the two universities don’t get the additional funding, they could raise tuition up to 5 percent.

The Iowa Board of Regents plans to hold its first reading of tuition proposals in April, with a final decision made in June.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter