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Legislators: Iowa legislature close to approving funding for tuition freeze

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | MAY 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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Eight months after the state Board of Regents proposed a tuition freeze for in-state students, one local representative said the proposal is just days away from going into place.

“I think [the passage] is more than likely, and it will happen and will happen within the next five days,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville. “Right now, it’s agreed to and is getting drafted by the Legislative Services Agency, and unless something weird happens and wheels fall off the bus, it will pass.”

Jacoby said the money for the freeze currently exists in three different appropriation bills, which when passed will form the necessary 2.6 percent in state appropriations to provide in-state undergraduate students with a tuition freeze for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Since former regent President Craig Lang brought up the proposal in September with other members of the board, and the Legislature took up the issue in January, students from the three regent universities have made countless trips to Des Moines to personally appeal to legislators — a tactic both sides believe was effective in continuing to move the proposal forward.

“I think it resonates very well with a lot of us, and I love it when they actually reach out to us,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak.

Former University of Iowa Student Government President Nic Pottebaum helped lead the UI’s efforts for the freeze, with personal appeals coupled with students who specifically targeted legislators during Regents Day and Hawkeye Caucus Day — an organization that advocates the UI’s interests throughout the entire state.

Pottebaum welcomed the news of the recent progress of funding support in the Legislature.

“This is a great accomplishment for students, and it was accomplished a lot by the students,” he said. “On both sides of the aisle, the tuition freeze was never really a contentious issue, and early in the session they were very inclined to make something like that happen.”

UI President Sally Mason was thankful for the support the proposal has received from both Gov. Terry Branstad and the Legislature so far.

“All of us are very grateful to the Legislature and the governor for their support of public higher education in Iowa,” she said in a statement. “As the first tuition freeze in 30 years, this measure will bring much needed relief to Iowa students and families and keep our costs among the most affordable in the nation.”

Jacoby agreed with Ernst and believes the credit for the passage of the freeze belongs to students, in particular their individual appeals to legislators from their hometowns.

“By far, the students were the best lobbyists that we have seen here,” he said. “They’re here to tell you their personal story, and look you in the eye, and advocate for the university.”

Pottebaum said he feels the future of additional freezes for undergraduate students rests with the state of Iowa’s economy — adding a proposal for graduate students is much more complicated.

Jacoby also said the possibility of future proposals rests with what issues the Legislature is focused on during the session — although he expressed interest in a five-year proposal.

He said students have created a lasting mechanism for future advocacy efforts.

“I think we will expect and welcome students showing up to every session,” Jacoby said. “They have developed a model for advocacy and I think they ought to continue it, because it keeps everyone involved in the political process.”


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