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Guest opinion: UISG lobbying for tuition freeze

BY KATHERINE VALDE | SEPTEMBER 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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One important role of the University of Iowa Student Government is to advocate for students at every level of campus, state, and federal policy. One area that I am particularly passionate about is our state legislative advocacy efforts. I am pleased to see that the state Board of Regents is pushing to freeze undergraduate in-state tuition for a second year in a row. If this were to be accomplished during legislative session, it would mark the first time since 1975 that tuition is held steady for two-consecutive years.

I believe that it’s important for students to first and foremost acknowledge that we are both aware of and thankful for last year’s tuition freeze before we begin to rally support to freeze tuition again.

This is why UISG is engaged in a comprehensive thank-you campaign. Our efforts began over the summer with a meeting between student government leadership, Gov. Terry Branstad, and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds to deliver this message and led into a statewide road trip to visit Iowa legislators in their home districts and at the State Capitol.

Four leaders from both UISG and the Executive Council of Graduate & Professional Students visited 11 cities in three days to personally say thank-you for making last year’s tuition freeze possible. We also used these meetings to express our interest in continuing the tuition freeze and lay the foundation for our current campaign. Members of UISG are sending out 450 handwritten thank-you cards in the next month to our state senators and representatives to demonstrate what a tuition freeze means for each of us.

I invite every student to extend a thank-you to your hometown legislator, and I would encourage out-of-state students to thank our local representatives for the hard work they put in during session to support our university. To look up your local legislator, visit this site. To complement these efforts, UISG and Hawkeye Caucus will also submit letters to the editor publicly thanking legislators in their hometown newspapers and iterating our support for this year’s proposed tuition freeze.

I believe that freezing tuition not only has a tangible benefit for students in terms of the bottom line but that symbolically, it sends an important message that our state values higher education. Iowa proudly grows corn and soybeans, but we also grow students. The state has a rich history of cultivating the minds of tomorrow and preparing students with the tools to reason, succeed, and one day give back to their communities.

Iowa’s reputation for quality education from kindergarten through professional school is an important reason that people choose to make this state their home. Collectively, we need to do a better job of asking students, both from in state and out, to stay in Iowa after they graduate. Our request for a second tuition freeze is also coupled with discussions about a workforce pipeline to connect Iowa graduates with in-state job opportunities. On the front end, we must work to keep tuition affordable while concurrently advocating for the postgraduate needs of job creation and workforce development.

Now is the time to use our voices and deliver a strong message of support for the tuition freeze. UISG will continue to actively lobby for affordability and job opportunity, and I encourage students to get involved, contact your state representatives, and join us in this effort.

Katherine Valde is the president of the UI Student Government.


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