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Regents’ vote to approve surcharge a tremendous disappointment

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 11, 2009 7:30 AM

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Forty-five minutes into the state Board of Regents’ meeting on Thursday, UI students could feel the sting of financial defeat.

In an almost preordained, anticlimactic manner, the $100 surcharge passed, 6-3. For an issue that has sparked such a vigorous and substantive debate, the final vote went on without much fanfare.

This alone is crippling to UI students.

We commend the three regents — Michael Gartner, Ruth Harkin, and Greta Johnson — who voted against the surcharge. While it would have been easy to capitulate in the face of inexorable passage, these three stalwartly — and admirably — backed the student interest.

University leaders and regents have said from the very beginning that these budget issues should be the burden of everyone, including students. Thursday’s vote made real that once-abstract notion.

“We feel that this is a regrettable, but acceptable, sacrifice for our students,” Regent President David Miles said.

The surcharge is expected to plug 10 percent of the state universities’ $60 million budget hole.

The Editorial Board understands that our budget problems have caused a great deal of strain on our faculty and staff. Layoffs, furloughs, and retirement-benefit cuts are never easy to deal with. But students should not have to pay for the economic misfortune of our university or state — especially in the absence of equitable sacrifices from upper-level administrators.

Exorbitant tuition rates already put enormous pressure on families to raise additional funds to send their children to college. This surcharge does not make that weight any easier.

UI President Sally Mason has stressed that the surcharge will not be a “recurring expense” and that financial aid will be possible for all those that qualify. However, the regents’ support of the increase makes further hikes a distinct possibility in the future.



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Students can argue that the regents have failed them, but UI leadership should take a share of the blame as well.

UISG President Michael Currie failed the students when he announced his support for the surcharge in late October. His endorsement of the increase — especially after its passage on Thursday — has undoubtedly undercut his support among students.

In addition, the UI’s administrative search for a strategic-communication vice president during our budget crisis runs counter to necessary fiscal responsibility.

The university had options to prevent the surcharge from becoming a reality. The university could have made a small cut to the salary of the highest-paid employees and furloughed affluent administrators. This would have provided the fairest and most egalitarian approach.

Unfortunately, those options were set aside for the surcharge.

We support our university and the strides it has made to meet these tough economic issues head on.

The UI administration has worked diligently in response to Gov. Chet Culver’s budget moves.
Nonetheless, we vehemently deny that the surcharge is the best option. The Editorial Board is disappointed that the regents ultimately rejected more equitable approaches.


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