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Iowa's Public Universities Delay Tuition Consideration As Lawmakers Work Out Funding Differences

University of Iowa
Republicans in the House and Senate are nearly $4 million apart on their funding proposals for state universities. And, both are proposing less than the governor is asking in her budget.

The board that oversees Iowa’s public universities will not consider new tuition rates at its meeting scheduled for this week because lawmakers at the Iowa Capitol are still working out their differences on state education funding.

Senate Republicans on an education budget committee advanced a plan Tuesday to give an additional $12 million to the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa next year. But that is less than the $15.9 million proposed by House Republicans, and even less than the $18 million requested by the universities and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, co-chairs the education budget subcommittee. He said the $12 million increase is part of a sustainable budget put forth by Senate Republicans.

“We’ve been where we had to de-appropriate, and I don’t think anyone wants money promised to them and then taken back,” Kraayenbrink said.

Lawmakers have made mid-year budget cuts to Iowa’s public universities in each of the past two years, with a net reduction of about $33 million.

Earlier this year, university presidents presented lawmakers with a choice: give the universities an $18 million raise so that UI and ISU would increase tuition 3 percent, and UNI would not increase tuition next year. Give the universities less than that, and they would increase tuition more—up to 5 percent at UI and ISU.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, is an associate professor at ISU. He said he is disappointed that Senate Republicans have effectively voted for a larger tuition increase.

“I think what the regents have told the legislature is simply a reflection of financial reality. They have to pay the bills. They have to meet the expenses,” Quirmbach said. “And if they don’t get the money from the legislature, where else are they going to get it?”

The Senate will have to reconcile its budget with the House of Representatives, which recently voted to approve more funding for the universities and other education programs.

Iowa Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman said the board will call a special meeting for initial consideration of next year’s tuition in late April or early May. The final decision on tuition will be made in June.

Senate and House Republicans differ on other aspects of education funding

The Senate’s education budget proposal also has less funding for community colleges than the House’s proposal. The Senate advanced a $4.7 million increase for community colleges, while the House approved a $7 million increase.

Senate Republicans left out $3 million proposed by Gov. Reynolds and the House to help train teachers to recognize signs of mental illness in children.

The education budget from the Senate also proposes less funding than the House for some scholarships that are part of Reynolds’ workforce development initiative.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter