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Branstad touts higher education plan at UI

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday he would wait to weigh in on a state Board of Regents’ proposal that would spare the University of Iowa funding cuts.

“We will have to wait until we get the December revenue estimate to decide what we’re going to do,” he said of a budget request the regents passed Wednesday.

The regents voted to ask the Legislature for $649 million for fiscal 2016 during their meeting. They also voted for an additional $12.9 to implement their new funding model.

The model calls for around $12.9 million to be taken from the UI and redistributed to the two other schools, but Regent Robert Downer said the extra money would allow the UI to avoid any loss this time around.

Branstad said his track record of securing two in-state tuition freezes illustrates that when the regents ask for something, he can come through.

“The regents asked for a certain level of funding in order to not have to increase tuition,” he said. “I put it in my budget and got it through the Legislature.”

The five-term governor emphasized the freezes to UI students during a campaign stop at the IMU. But when it comes to a possible third freeze, Branstad said, costs could not remain the same for an extended period of time.

“I don’t know that we can say that we’re never going to have an increase,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Branstad were in Iowa City to continue their tour of regent universities after unveiling their education proposal at Iowa State on Tuesday — a plan the former president of Des Moines University said could save students even more money. 

“These are bold approaches to reducing the cost of a degree, but I believe they are realistic and achievable, based on what other states have done,” Branstad said.

The proposal is based on four core areas, which included making some of the more popular majors cost $10,000 over four years and cutting tuition in half for at least some of a university’s other majors.

The plan does not include specific majors that would apply or details on how universities would make up any lost funding. Branstad said he would work with the regents on the details, but he vowed he would remain hands-on in the crafting of any agreement.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, unveiled his education plan earlier in the year. His plan is called the “Open Doors Accelerated B.A. program.”

Hatch also told The Daily Iowan during a roundtable on Tuesday that he would back a third year for an in-state undergraduate tuition freeze.

Hatch said Branstad’s plan was “unrealistic and unworkable” and believes his proposal, which includes an accelerated-degree initiative, would better serve students.

“[The Branstad plan] will turn Iowa schools into the public university equivalent of the University of Phoenix,” Hatch said.


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