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Locals react to tuition freeze expansion possibility

BY MEGAN SANCHEZ | SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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Members of the state Board of Regents and legislators are expressing optimism for a proposal that would extend the current tuition freeze for another year.

On Sep. 12, regents met with the Iowa Legislative Fiscal Committee to propose a 4 percent funding increase in order to extend the freeze.

Regent President Bruce Rastetter said they heard many committee members saying they support the move.

He said this support is important because in order for the freeze to continue, the Legislature must include the 4 percent increase in the appropriations bill. The Legislature is expected to vote on this proposal when it resumes session next year.

“The mission of the Board of Regents is to make the three public universities accessible and affordable to all Iowans,” Rastetter said. “Freezing tuition is an extremely important way of doing that.”

Gov. Terry Branstad’s approval is also crucial to the passing of the tuition freeze, and Rastetter said the governor seems to be saying positive things about the possible expansion.

Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, one of the committee members receiving the report, said he has concerns about the request fitting in with the statewide budget.

“I think it’s a good goal, and if we can accomplish it I think it would be great, but we have a lot of work to do on the budget before we can say it’s a done deal,” he said.

He said freezing tuition is not keeping costs down but having taxpayers pay the extra costs, and if that is going to happen, he said he wants to see the regents doing their best to keep tuition costs low.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, who announced Monday he will seek the Democratic nomination for governor, said he does not think the tuition freeze is a long-term solution.

“They froze tuition once; we’re [probably] going to freeze it again, but that can’t go on forever,” the Des Moines businessman said. “There has to be a fundamental change.”

A system for students at any in-state higher education institution to take classes at any other Iowa college if unavailable at their respective school should also be created, Hatch said to ensure on-time graduation.

UI Associate Provost Beth Ingram said the freeze would be an incentive for Iowa students to stay in the state.

“Everybody has to find the university that fits for them, and part of that determination is whether you can afford to attend that university,” she said.

Aside from a few scholarships, UI junior Austin Kinnley said an extension of the freeze would mean a lot to him as paying for college rides on his individual payments alone.

“It would mean a sign from the Board of Regents and the Legislature that they are looking at the youth,” he said. “I think that the youth is sometimes overlooked as undereducated and not as wise as the elder crowd, so it means a lot to me as someone who has student loans that I can look forward and not see my loan amount increase.”

Regent Larry McKibben said that since the downfall of the stock market, the tuition has increased, and the regents do not want that to discourage students from seeking a higher education.

“We want an education system in Iowa that promotes people going to college, and affordability is one of those things that will help promote that,” he said.


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