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Guests: Restore common sense — amend Board of Regents

BY JEFF KAUFMANN and PAT GRASSLEY - GUEST OPINION | JANUARY 28, 2010 7:30 AM

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The UI recently announced a new vice president to fill yet another newly resurrected administrative position.

Iowa taxpayers and students are paying this new vice president of Strategic Communications, currently working on a master’s degree, a base salary of $200,000. With benefits, his nearly quarter-of-a-million dollar compensation is significantly larger than that of the governor of Iowa.

This decision is boldly sandwiched between a new $100 surcharge on our students and a likely tuition increase. In these difficult economic times when Iowa families are tightening their budgets, it’s time for reform to restore fiscal common sense and fairness for our students.

The state Board of Regents is providing information to imply that administrative expenses at our institutions are less than their peers. There is one thing we have learned about these kinds of charts: They usually make creative use of statistics to justify decisions that lack of common sense to the public.

We know that our criticism and demand for reform will cause some irritation. We were called partisan by a few of our colleagues because of the suggestion that we should elect our regents. These are rather hollow jabs, because both parties’ political appointees are represented among the regents. The only way to slow this epidemic of fiscally poor decisions is for Iowans to say in a united voice, “Enough is enough.”

Let’s discuss three reforms already working in several states:

1) Elect some members of the Board of Regents and allow the state auditor to also appoint a member. Colorado, Michigan, and other states already elect their regents to reduce rubber stamping.

2) Hold public hearings before a vote to increase tuition.

3) Form task forces to look at tuition relief, graduation rates, duplicity, and administration costs.

The bottom line is that an institutional bureaucracy, even in tough times, will naturally favor and expand its members at the top. Despite frontline employee furloughs, pay freezes, and sacrifice, adding another cabinet-level VP is sadly predictable.

If the regents continue to neglect their basic duties of scrutiny and oversight, then it is time for Iowans to say “enough is enough” and make it our New Year’s resolution to insist that the Legislature and governor intervene.

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, represents House District 79. Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, represents House District 17.


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