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Gubernatorial candidate visits UI with proposal to lower college costs

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | JANUARY 31, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, advocated his plan to lower college costs on Thursday at the University of Iowa as he continues his campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

“We want the best schools with the best education so all of the kids can come here as an 18-year-old kid and graduate as a 21-year-old adult and be ready to tackle the world,” he said.

The plan, which Hatch calls “Open Doors for Iowa Students” comprises two major proposals, the first of which he terms the “accelerated bachelor’s.” It would allow a student to complete a four-year college degree in three years by completing course requirements at any Iowa college or university with easy transfers.

“If you can get through college in three years instead of four, your costs will come down,” Hatch said. “The biggest barrier to that is when a college or university doesn’t have the variety for you to take the courses when you need to.”

He is confident both public and private universities would support the proposal. Public universities are held accountable by the state Board of Regents, and private universities are incentivized because they receive tuition grant money from the state and would participate to ensure the universities receive the grants in the future.

The second proposal is $3,000 need-based loans for Iowa students from the state to be drawn from a $150 million fund. The loans would have a 1 percent interest. The fund would be drawn from the existing budget surplus, effectively keeping banks out of the student-loan discussion.

“We’re actually eliminating the middleman,” he said. “That’s how we can keep the grant low.”

Hatch said the fund would be maintained in the future by the interest received from the previous years’ loans. He believes the loan would push more students into Iowa colleges as a result of lowered costs and influence universities to become more efficient.

“No college will tell you that they don’t need more money, but they can manage their money,” he said. “Students have very little resources to manage their student debt.”

Hatch characterized Gov. Terry Branstad as “in the back row” and “silent” on the issue of college costs. In response, Terry Schultz, Branstad-Reynolds campaign communications director, emphasized the jobs created and the lower unemployment rate during the governor’s tenure.

“Clearly, students know that they have a pro-jobs governor and pro-jobs government working for them for after they graduate,” Schultz said.

Democratic candidate Jonathan Narcisse and former member of the Des Moines School Board criticized Hatch’s plan for drawing on the budget surplus.

Narcisse said his plan to lower college costs would not need to draw from the fund. Instead, he said it would eliminate the cost of “fraud, bureaucracy, and white-collar welfare” in K-12 education in order to provide tuition money to students who would be willing to volunteer 40 hours per summer and work in Iowa one year for every year they receive state funds.

Although the organization does not officially endorse candidates, Hatch’s plan has drawn the interest of the UI Democrats.

“[Hatch] has spoken to members of the University Democrats before and has been very well-received,” said University Democrats President Carter Bell. “We will push all of Sen. Hatch’s education-related proposals to encourage students to vote.”


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