Law students ask legislators for funding


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A chorus of clicking keyboards echoed throughout the Levitt Auditorium at the University of Iowa College of Law Thursday.

There, around 100 law students crafted e-mails to Iowa legislators, requesting more state funding in an effort to stave off tuition increases.

Under the current state Board of Regents proposal, in-state tuition for law students could increase by 9.4 percent. Out of state tuition is slated to increase by 7.4 percent.

“Students have to bear the burden of the decreased state appropriations, and we would like the Legislature to make education a priority again,” said Michael Appel, a first-year UI law student who led the effort.

This year, legislators have denied the regents’ request for a roughly $18 million increase in funds, and Gov. Terry Branstad proposed a 6 percent decrease in state appropriation for education last month.

Each student sent letters to up to 10 legislators, some local, some from writers’ in-state hometowns.
State officials also proposed a 5 percent tuition increase for most in-state students.

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Appel said he believed the increase would place greater debt on graduating law students, forcing them to seek employment at more profitable metropolitan areas away from Iowa. He said this would lead to a “brain drain” that deprives Iowa of educated professionals.

“Having these loans hanging over your head for years is daunting,” he said. “I want to go into public-interest law in rural areas, but I considered not doing that at first because of the loans I’d have to pay back.”

In-state tuition per semester at the law school was $1,100 in 1988; it is now $25,000.

“I think the budget that Branstad is proposing is too drastic,” he said. “I completely understand that we need to cut back on spending, but not to the degree that he is doing.”

Appel did not cite specific areas that could be cut instead of education, though he said Iowa’s business taxes are low compared with other states’ and may be worth considering.

House education appropriations subcommittee head Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, said he welcomed students’ opinions but believes students will find similar or greater costs at other universities.

“Wherever [students] go, they’re going to find the same cost of tuition,” he said. “I think the education market received in Iowa is as good as they can get anywhere else.”

Rep. Curtis Hanson, D-Fairfield, said he agreed with the students’ viewpoints.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of students get an education in Iowa and move out of state because of greater economic opportunities,” he said. “Right now, we have an exodus of people out of state, even though Iowa is considered one of the best places to raise a family and start a new business.”

Hanson said he believed a change in education budgeting would be a difficult road.

“It’s not something that we’re going to stop at the stroke of a pen,” he said.

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