Iowa students urge lawmakers to stop the cuts

BY ARIANA WITT | MARCH 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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DESMOINES—Standing in a circle of four University of Iowa undergraduates, sophomore Katy Kinney engaged Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, in a debate.

“What do you think it means when you guys cut state appropriations?” she asked him sharply. “Because to me, it means you hurt us students.”

Baltimore responded by saying he wanted more transparency in the state Board of Regents’ budget, which he said could help legislators find ways to cut funding without huring students.

Kinney and more than 300 Iowa students — 50 from the UI, 105 from the University of Northern Iowa, and 150 from Iowa State University — spoke to legislators about budget cuts as part of Regents Day on Monday.

“Obviously, we’re seeing more and more dollars come out of our pockets to fund tuition, so I think bringing those perspectives in and sharing them with our lawmakers certainly makes a difference,” said UI Student Government President John Rigby.

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Students from the three state institutions wore pins and clothing in their school colors, and “Stop the Cuts” was an overarching theme.

The phrase erupted from the crowd when Gov. Terry Branstad walked through the Capitol, spending a few minutes speaking with students. Regent President David Miles openly supported the message, sporting three protest buttons on his suit jacket.

Miles said he believes cuts to the state Board of Regents’ budget have “marginally affected the quality of our institutions.”

“What we want to make sure doesn’t happen is that the damage becomes so severe that we can’t turn it around,” he said.

Lawmakers who spoke with students said they think the message and large attendance will have a lasting effect.

“I’m thrilled to see students turn out in this large number because they’re telling legislators they want an affordable education and they want to stay in Iowa, and I truly believe legislators will start to listen,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, spoke to a mix of students from UI and the University of Northern Iowa on the steps of the Senate chamber. He said he understood student concerns over their financial futures, but he is frustrated about the regents using tuition increases as an answer to appropriation cuts.

“Most of the regents are very wealthy people who don’t care if they increase your tuition,” Zaun said to students.

Miles said if the regents were to restore the funds lost in the last two years, it would have to increase tuition by 47 percent. The board is expected to vote on a 5 percent tuition increase for in-state students at its March 23 meeting.

But not everyone in attendance Monday favored the message.

“We’re here to show that there are people at the university level who understand why we have to face these cuts,” said ISU senior Logan Pals, the president of the school’s College Republicans.

Lyndsay Harshman, the president of the UI Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, said consideration is what students need.

“The university presidents have fought for us,” Harshman said, addressing the crowd of students. “The regents have fought for us. Today I ask our state leaders, ‘When will you fight for us?’ ”

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