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Students lobby Statehouse

BY MARY HARRINGTON | APRIL 07, 2009 7:30 AM

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Student representatives from the state universities gathered Monday to urge lawmakers to fully fund the state Board of Regents’ budget requests amid statewide cuts.

Approximately 12 percent of funding to the UI and the regents would be sliced under a preliminary education budget passed by the Iowa Senate on Monday. But approximately $350 million from federal stimulus money would later partially curb those slashes, said Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D–Coralville.

Students said that although they expect cuts, they asked that legislators make any reductions equitable to other state agencies while allowing universities as much stimulus funding as possible.

“I think this is smart, something the legislators could definitely sponsor,” said Iowa State University senior Alyssa Staley, who organized the Regents’ Day event. “I hope that by so many students being here today we can make it happen.”



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But few UI students and even fewer lawmakers were present to discuss those issues.

While ISU and the University of Northern Iowa brought more than 20 and 40 students, respectively, fewer than 10 UI Student Government members showed up.

Student representatives from each institution gathered outside the Senate and House chambers all morning complaining about high student debt rates in the state.

On average, college students in Iowa graduated with more debt in than any other state, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Other costs, such as textbook fees, were of concern as well.

Student leaders from each school said they would normally lobby the legislators for more specific, campus-tailored causes.

“I originally had ideas for what I wanted to lobby for,” said UISG Government Relations Liaison Molly McAndrew. “But this year, it immediately became apparent that the budget, and money, and appropriations were going to be the first things on our minds.”

As a result of the recession’s budget-cutting effects, the three institutions’ student representatives united around these broader, more generalized pleas to avoid further cuts.

“[Students] have a right to be concerned,” said Cindy Winckler, D–Davenport, a member of the Appropriations and Education Committees. “Unfortunately, this year with the recession we’re having a difficult time making ends meet.”

Along with budget requests, students also urged for workforce development and work on retention within Iowa. Some students said they will continue to visit the Capitol to lobby on behalf of their fellow students.

“I think that we’ve been effective in at least getting in touch with our legislators and showing them that we care, but as far as marking off successes, not so much, because the money’s just not there,” said UISG President Maison Bleam.


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