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Former UISG president, statehouse candidate says officials should examine fees

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | FEBRUARY 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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While keeping tuition down is a perennial talking point among state policymakers, the fees students pay don't get as much attention.

But a former University of Iowa Student Government president wants to tackle that issue.

Maison Bleam recently announced his intention to run for a seat in the Iowa House. The 2009 UI graduate said his experience as a student advocate gives him an advantage and better understanding about the challenges governing bodies face.

"[It] really gave me a good perspective on a lot of things that happened at the state level, whether its in politics or just in the community," he said.

The 24-year-old running for the House District 10 seat said though he doesn't have specific solutions to tackling climbing tuition rates, he said it's an issue he intends to focus on.

Bleam also raised concern about the state of mandatory fees students pay — additional expenses tacked on to tuition. The UI currently has nine categories of mandatory fees including career services, Student Health, and technology fees. Bleam said he would like the state Board of Regents and state institutions to examine these fees to ensure students are not paying highly inflated prices.

"Room and board, is it really going up that high in price?" he said.

Regent Robert Downer said he agrees and notes that the regents have raised similar concerns.

"I have serious questions about a lot of the mandatory fees," he said. "If they are truly mandatory, I'm not sure why they're not just rolled into tuition."

He's unsure if the yearly adjustments to the fees need to occur, he said.

"Of course there are a huge number of fees, and I'm just wondering if that's in everybody's best interest," Downer said.

Don Szeszycki, an associate vice president in the Provost's Office, said the university provides regents with its yearly proposals for mandatory fees, most recently at the December 2011 meeting.

The UI requested a 3.8 percent increase — $50 more — for next year.

The UI annually examines each fee to make sure there are no excessive jumps, Szeszycki said.

"Every year, we go through the fees," he said. "We work with the groups that are supported by the fees … we analyze these and package them up for [the Regents] approval."

Bleam also said he hopes to improve communication between lawmakers and higher-education officials, noting that his position with UISG puts him in a good position to do that.

"There's a big disconnect between the [Board of Regents] and [the legislators] … if you have a close relationship, I don't see anything wrong with that, and I think we need to have a lot more of that in Des Moines," he said.

Downer, himself a former UI student government president, said there is always room for improvement in communication.

"Part of the problem is that you have new people coming into the Legislature every few years," he said. "It's something that we constantly have to work on and be aware of."

Current UISG President Elliot Higgins said communication with local representatives is excellent.

"However, state representatives and state senators who live in areas away from public institutions may not necessarily have that interaction with students from regent institutions," he said. "So there is room for improvement."


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