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Students: take action on budget cuts

BY GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 02, 2011 7:10 AM

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Our university is nearing a critical juncture.

Public universities in Iowa receive revenue from two main sources: state appropriations and tuition. During the past two fiscal years, state appropriations have decreased 20 percent, resulting in a nearly $140 million loss to Iowa’s public universities over that time. Since 2001, the state Board of Regents’ budget (which funds our public universities) has decreased by 25 percent.

At the same time, Iowa has increased its overall spending 13 percent. Additionally, K-12 education spending increased 30 percent, and community-college education spending also increased over the last 10 years. Meanwhile, funding to Iowa public universities was cut to an outrageous level; in fiscal 2010, only five other states had cut state appropriations for education more than Iowa.

This trend is alarming. To put the depth of these cuts into perspective, consider the following: If the regents desired to meet the deficit that has been absorbed by Iowa’s public universities during the past two fiscal years alone, students at Iowa public universities would encounter a disastrous 26 percent tuition increase.

In addition to the budget cuts the state has imposed upon our public universities since 2001, the Iowa House of Representatives recently passed HR45, which decreases the regents’ budget for public universities by $25 million next fiscal year and retroactively decreases this fiscal year’s budget by $10 million. The additional budget cuts proposed in the House, and still in debate in the Senate, would further raise the theoretical “increase” needed to erase the deficit facing our public universities to a 29 percent tuition hike.

Although our state legislators have found public universities a prime target for budget cuts, they could consider that yearly, private universities in Iowa receive approximately $45 million in state funding to provide scholarship/attendance assistance so that students may attend private universities in Iowa through the Iowa Tuition Grant Program. Somehow, the House has not deigned to cut aid for private universities/schools in its attempt to slash the budget.

Why do we worry or care enough to write about this topic? If state appropriations continue to decrease, tuition will certainly become the means to fund universities in Iowa, raising costs for all students and placing higher education out of reach for many.

You can take action to help prevent a further decrease in state appropriations for our Iowa public universities. If you are from Iowa, write your hometown legislator and ask your parents, friends, and family members to do so, as well. If you are from out of state, contact a member of the Education Appropriations Committee.

Additionally, contact your student government at the University of Iowa. We are lobbying in Des Moines for you and would appreciate your presence with us while speaking with legislators about the great things our university has done and continues to do, and why funding higher public education is truly a sound investment for the state and nation.

We must never forget that public education is a public good.

John Rigby and Erika Hayes are the president and vice president of the UI Student Government. Lyndsay Harshman and Donna Lancianese are the president and vice president of the Executive Council of Graduate & Professional Students.


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