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Regents may face hefty cuts from legislators

BY ARIANA WITT | JANUARY 20, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa’s House of Representatives voted to adopt GOP amendments Tuesday that could de-appropriate $25 million of funds from the state Board of Regents over the next two fiscal years.

In addition to the regents’ cuts, representatives voted to adopt an amendment that proposes a possible tuition cap.

“What we’re saying tonight is that regents may not pass on those cuts to students,” said Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who drafted the tuition amendment. “I couldn’t be more happy that the Democrats have joined with us.”

Regents could lose $10 million from the current fiscal year budget, according to the proposed bill, and another $15 million the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

For now, those potential de-appropriations are separate from potential cuts to sabbatical programs under review by lawmakers, said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, who voted against the amendment.

“That’s an ideological difference,” he said. “We need to talk about adequate funding for the regents. I think it’s dangerous to talk about de-appropriating funds with 60 percent of the school year gone.”

But Kaufmann said he feels the potential cut, coupled with a possible tuition cap, would force the regents to look elsewhere when attempting to fund institutions.

Regent President David Miles said Wednesday he and the other regents do not wish to speculate on the effect of the amendments at this time.

Jacoby said his biggest concern with potential cuts is maintaining the rate of admitting Iowa high-school graduates.

“We’re going to have kids searching for quality education that may not be in the state of Iowa,” said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames.

Under Kaufmann’s amendment, regents would be restricted from increasing tuition and fees by more than 4 percent related to the previous school year.

“I think it’s a good sign that our legislators — Republican or Democrat — are addressing the issues that concern students,” said John Rigby, the president of the University of Iowa Student Government. “Certainly, by this amendment [a tuition cap] seems possible, but I think it will die in the Senate.”

The next step for the adopted amendments would be to go to the Senate for a vote, said Kaufmann, where he expects the de-appropriation number to shrink.

During Wednesday’s debate, Wessel-Kroeschell said she felt Kaufmann’s concern was not for middle-class Iowans, but rather for attempting to make regents control their budget.

In response, Kaufmann said he was hoping to get regents to look elsewhere for funds.

As House members deliberated the tuition cap, Kaufmann referred critically to a February hiring by regents following the 6 percent raise in tuition.

“I think we need to watch — with the de-appropriation dollars — who’s back that budget is balanced on,” Kaufmann said. “I don’t want it to be balanced on the back of our students.”


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