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Surcharge refunds start today


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The state is pumping more than $30 million back into Iowa’s public universities, Gov. Chet Culver announced Thursday during a bill-signing ceremony on the University of Iowa campus.

And UI officials say they’ll use part of their $14.4 million share to refund the surcharge students paid at the beginning of the spring semester. That refunding process will begin today.

“I really felt strongly, as did the Legislature, that we should minimize the financial impact on our students and families across the state. That’s one of the things I feel best about with this bill signing today,” Culver told The Daily Iowan. “We’re sticking up and fighting for students.”

UI officials announced last fall that they would charge students a one-time surcharge this spring to help offset a nearly $25 million budget hole created by Culver’s state-wide 10 percent cuts. The surcharge refund, $100 for full-time students and prorated for part-time students, will be credited to students’ U-bills starting today.. Regent President David Miles commended Culver and lawmakers from the Iowa City area for making university funding a priority on Thursday.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said the law is a sign of support for higher education but the state can still do more to support Iowa’s public universities.

This academic year saw the first time that the UI’s general fund was composed mostly of student tuition and fees. In other words, state appropriations are diminishing as a portion of the university budget.

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“It’s always sort of a struggle to show the entire state how regent institutions benefit them, and I think it’s something we need to continue to do,” Dvorsky said, adding he’d like to see students’ share of the university budget as low as 30 percent.

UI officials said they hope the one-time supplement from the state will divert the weight of the budget crisis away from students.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure that students always bear the smallest share of the burden for addressing cuts,” President Sally Mason said in a statement.

UI freshman Kailey Smith, who pays her own out-of-state tuition, said she wasn’t keen on having the pay the $100 surcharge in the first place.

Fellow freshman Chris Snyder said he thinks the process of collecting the surcharge and then refunding it was a waste of the UI’s time and resources.

“It seemed like a short-term fix, because there’s always the question of what they’ll do next year,” he said.

As experts scour economic data, looking for signs that the world economy has seen the worst of the recession, Culver painted an optimistic portrait of Iowa’s economy.

“We’re actually not in a bad fiscal situation anymore,” he said. “We’re moving forward, so I think it’s only going to get better in terms of our economic future.”

As evidence, Culver, who is up for re-election in November, pointed to recently released Forbes rankings that praised several Iowa communities, including naming Iowa City as the second-best small city for business.

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