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State representative: Board of Regents should do some re-organizing

BY LINDA MILLER - GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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Last week, the Iowa House passed a massive government-reorganization bill. Senate File 2088 calls on government to operate more efficiently and effectively. Time and again, we were asked to prioritize services and savings to Iowans over the status quo. With a $1 billion budget shortfall, it is clear that Iowa needs to do things differently. Given the depth of this shortfall, we need to look in all areas for a better way to deliver services.

The careful balancing that the Legislature accomplished last week also needs to happen in our state Board of Regents’ universities, with the goal being high-quality education that does not become tuition prohibitive.

Iowa’s profound dedication to education will be severely tested in the next fiscal year. No area of education will escape a reduction, including the state universities. One of the amendments that was adopted in the government-reorganization bill would require that the Regents Cooperative Purchasing Division provide a 30-day notice if it is going to make a purchase of more than $100,000. The division would be mandated to post its intent on the Internet. Some additional amendments that made sense, but that were not adopted, address some of the issues at the regent institutions. They would:

• Add a new division titled “State Board of Regents-Cost Saving Task Force” to identify waste and inefficiencies.

• Require the regents to develop a biennial plan with benchmarks on measures to reduce tuition and attain higher graduation rates.

• Delay sabbaticals by one year.

• Require the regents to conduct three public hearing before adopting any tuition or fee proposal.

• Limit tuition increases to the most recent Higher Education Price Index.

• Require all professors to teach one or more courses during each fiscal year of employment.

• Require the regents to include in their annual report the number of courses professors teach in the classroom, compared with the number of hours teaching assistants teach.

I am sure that these ideas and more could be instituted to make the universities run more smoothly and provide a better educational product to our students. The challenge to all Iowans, including the regents, is to look for commonsense cost savings that test the status quo but benefit students.

Rep. Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf, represents House District 82 and is a member of the House Education Committee.


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