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University Presidents Plead for More State Aid, Warn Quality is at Stake

regents presidents
Joyce Russell/IPR
L-R: University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld; UNI President Mark Nook; ISU President Wendy Wintersteen

One by one, the presidents of Iowa’s public universities gave severe warnings to lawmakers today about declining state support for higher education, and what it will mean for the institutions in the future.  

It's almost the legislature against the Board of Regents. -Rep. Pat Grassley

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld told the House Appropriations Committee that over the past 20 years, the state budget, the student body, and consumer price index have all grown, while state support for the U of I today is a few million dollars less than it was back then.  

Herald warned that at that rate, Iowa students will begin to look elsewhere for a quality education.

“What is quite clear is if we do not establish a plan for stable resources which are necessary to improve our quality,” Harreld said, “Iowans will be forced to pay non-resident tuition at Michigan, or Wisconsin, or Minnesota in order to obtain the quality they demand and deserve.”

Credit Joyce Russell/IPR
ISU Pres. Wendy Wintersteen

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen described the strain on ISU’s budget over the last eight years.

“We’ve added 10,000 students since 2009, our tuition for resident undergraduate students has been the same for seven out of the last 12 semesters, and our state appropriation is trending down significantly,” Wintersteen said.   

Wintersteen said that combination has “stretched the university too thin.”

And President Mark Nook said at the University of Northern Iowa, tuition levels are now at the top among their list of peer institutions, while state aid is near the bottom.   

Credit Joyce Russell/IPR
UI Pres. Bruce Harreld

“Revenue impacts quality,” Nook said.

The universities are asking for a $12 million increase in state aid next year, exclusively for financial aid.   That’s more than Gov. Kim Reynolds has included in her budget.

Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford) said he wants more information from  the universities about efficiencies they’ve enacted.

“We have to have information like this so as we’re making tough decisions we know what tough decisions are being made at each of the universities,” Grassley said.  “It's beginning to come to where it's almost the legislature against the Board of Regents and I don't think we want to be there.”

Revenue impacts quality. -UNI Pres. Mark Nook

Ranking Education Budget Subcommittee Member Cindy Winckler (D-Davenport) urged majority Republicans to do right by the universities next year.

“I’m making a plea that we are not going to have flat funding or a reduction for our Regents universities,” Winckler said.

Winckler added that state appropriations for the three universities has fallen by nearly $100 million since 2009.