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Some officials skeptical of Iowa House bill to freeze universities' tuition

BY JORDYN REILAND | MARCH 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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A proposed tuition freeze passed the House Appropriations Committee unanimously Wednesday, even as state officials from both parties said the legislation could result in further education cuts.

The committee also added a regent-university budget proposal that is lower than recent years. Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said regent universities would have difficulty operating at the same standards before the freeze if both measures pass.

"Their proposal for the budget is really, really low, and if you don't allow [universities] to raise tuition, then they won't have the resources needed to operate properly," he said.

After the Board of Regents spoke about the tuition freeze during the regents' meeting Wednesday, Regent President Craig Lang said officials could see large numbers of state funding cuts at the university level.

"The consequences of not removing [the freeze] means that we will see the cuts on campus that we haven't seen before," he said. "Those are the kinds of cuts that I think would really jeopardize the environment and learning that's important to our students."

Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck, R-Dixon said legislators need to make a decision that would balance the tuition freeze.

"I was a student once, and I'm still paying off loans," he said. "If we're going to cap, then we have to be able to make up the expenditures on the backside."

Other senators said they did not believe the bill would go any further.

"I think it's a bad idea, terrible idea," said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. "The best thing the Legislature can do to keep tuition low is to have a strong appropriations for our public universities."

Freezing tuition could be costly, he said.

"Freezing tuition is going to result in higher class sizes and lower quality," he said. "If you freeze tuition and do not provide great resources, the quality of student experience will go down."

Dvorsky voiced a similar opinion.

"I would hope that if you support public education in Iowa, you would not support any of that," he said.

Though members of the University of Iowa Student Government have been working with the regents and UI officials to keep tuition costs low, UISG President Elliot Higgins said the tuition freeze could be deceiving to students and officials.

"While it may sound good on the surface, it's detrimental to the UI and to the students," he said.

Instead, he said, he hopes legislators will allocate an appropriate amount of funding to the regent institutions instead.

"Legislators need to leave authority to set tuition to the Board of Regents," he said. "The move they are making is unprecedented."


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