UI student groups rally support for Hawkeye Caucus Day, tuition freeze


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Tuition for an in-state, undergraduate student was $145 per semester fifty years ago. Today, the same type of student can expect to pay $6,678 for base tuition per semester at the University of Iowa.

Members of the Hawkeye Caucus are resolute to keep tuition steady at current rates for at least two more years. On April 2, students will lobby in the capital to extend the tuition freeze beyond the 2013-14 academic year — Hawkeye Caucus’ sole goal for this year’s lobbying efforts.

“We’re focusing on the tuition freeze because Iowa students are graduating with some of the highest debt amounts in the country, and they don’t need any more money added to their debt,” said Andrew Bates, the president of Hawkeye Caucus.

According to UI financial-aid officials, the average student debt was $26,296 for the class of 2012. Fifty-nine percent of the class graduated with debt.

The state Board of Regents voted in December to approve a tuition freeze for the 2013-14 academic year. The freeze applies only to in-state undergraduate students. They would continue to pay $6,678 for base tuition, while out-of-state and all graduate students would see a 2.6 percent increase in base tuition.

The Hawkeye Caucus revamped its recruiting efforts in the last week with the help of the UI Student Government.

Together, they are sending emails to students across campus and setting up tables in such places as the IMU urging students to send emails to their state senators and representatives.

“I think those small increases can really affect students, and I think we can tackle this piece to keep the price steady for the next couple of years,” said Katherine Valde, the UISG government-relations liaison.

Additionally, the groups have appealed to College Republicans, College Democrats, and groups such as the Campus Activities Board to persuade as many people as possible to attend Hawkeye Caucus Day and support their efforts.

“We do support the caucus, and in fact we have quite a few members who are involved,” said Quentin Marquez, vice president of the UI Republicans. “Republicans are paying for college, too.”

Between now and caucus day, the groups hope to recruit a couple dozen more students, for a total of 100 students to attend, Bates said. They expect to bring somewhere between 40 and 60 undergraduates and about 50 graduate students.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, who sits on the Education Committee, said the issue hasn’t been fully explored yet.

“I’d have to see what that impact is, but I can say I don’t want to see students’ tuition to go up,” she said.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said he fully supports the tuition freeze.

In general, the tuition freeze has support from regents, students, and UI President Sally Mason, who was quoted as saying she’d support the freeze for as long as she’s president. However, the freeze did receive some opposition from the University of Northern Iowa’s student government last fall.

In order to offset inflation, the proposed plan is to appropriate a 2.6 percent increase in funding from the state, which would allow the tuition to remain the same. It would be the first time since the 1980-81 school year.

Gov. Terry Branstad’s budget proposal for fiscal 2014 includes the needed funds to allow regents to implement the tuition freeze.

“We’re very hopeful that the tuition freeze will go through for next year,” Bates said. “But we’re going to still keep trying our hardest.”

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