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UI students thank legislators

BY LILY ABROMEIT | SEPTEMBER 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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Recognizing the rising costs of a college education, student leaders are reaching out to the Iowa Legislature by delivering straight to its doorstep just two simple words: thank-you.

Moving through a three-step process that began over the summer, members of the University of Iowa Student Government have opted to personally thank officials in light of latest tuition freeze by way of a modest card. 

The tuition freeze, made possible in the 2013 legislative session, meant in-state undergraduate tuition at Iowa’s public universities remained the same as the previous academic year.

“We really believe in the power of thank-you, and we’re really appreciative for their allocations that they gave us,” said Joelle Brown, the governmental relations liaison for UISG, who noted that not seeing an increase in student tuition is “huge” because such action has not occurred in a number of years.

In all, the 450 thank-you cards, UISG officials maintain, is only one of their initiatives to let legislators know how grateful they are. 

Letters to the editor published in Iowa newspapers will be the final piece of the initiative.

Legislators should expect not just one but three letters to arrive in about the next month.

“In the Legislature, we deal with a lot of numbers and letters and percents, and often, that’s not what it’s about,” said Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge. “And when we can put a name and a face on the issue … that’s important. Literally and figuratively speaking, it puts a face on an otherwise abstract issue.”

Although he said he believes the Legislature is leaning toward a second tuition freeze, he thinks hearing “thank-you” could help swing some votes.

“From a purely very personal, or even maybe selfish reason, if we’re told that what we’ve done is appreciated, it probably makes us more likely to say yes again,” he said.

Peter Matthes, the UI director of federal relations, said building a positive relationship is the most important part.

“For legislators to hear from their own constituents about the impact that this current tuition freeze is having upon them is of extreme importance, because it relates to communicating the importance of having and supporting the regents’ proposal to freeze tuition again next year for resident undergraduate students,” he said.

While solely focused on the first tuition freeze passing, Carter Bell, the UISG Governmental Relations Committee head, said she is hopeful the letters will still affect the decision to freeze tuition a second time.

“I think it will show all of the different ways in which the freeze positively affected UI students, and I hope it’s what legislators think of when they allocate fiscal funds during the upcoming legislative session,” she wrote in an email.

Similar efforts are something Matthes would like to see come not just from the UI but also from the other two regent universities.

“It’s about individual legislators hearing from individual constituents,” he said.

Although Iowa State University was not aware of UISG’s campaign, Zachary Bauer, a senator and public-relations head on the ISU Government of the Student Body, said he believes it could be something ISU would look at doing, especially in a joint program with the UI.

“I think it would be good to have a collective process here with all the regent institutions … because it does affect all the universities,” he said.

Thomas Madsen, the University of Northern Iowa Student Government president, said that school would see a decrease in funding if the tuition freeze was continued because a majority of the students are Iowa residents.

He said student leaders are looking more seriously at proposing the Legislature approve additional funding for UNI if the freeze is continued.

Despite the current UISG campaign, Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said receiving a public, or even a private, thank-you will not affect the way he votes.

“Certainly, it’s always nice to get a thank-you,” he said. “But what we do … is not based on whether or not I’m going to get a thank-you. I vote based on … if I think it’s the right thing to do.”


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