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Local Iowa House representatives oppose regents funding model

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | OCTOBER 31, 2014 5:00 AM

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As Election Day approaches, several area Iowa House representatives aren’t feeling the uncertainty or campaign fury as they run unopposed, but they are already thinking about their top priorities for the 2015 legislative session.

Representatives from Districts 74, 77, and 86 are guaranteed a seat in the Iowa House, and a common theme has played out in each of their agendas: discussing the state Board of Regents’ performance-based revenue model.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, the assistant minority leader, said her top priority would be to make sure the cost of tuition remains affordable for students.

“This new funding formula that has been rolled out by the Board of Regents is devastating to the University of Iowa, but we’re going to do everything we can to fight that,” she said.

The regents’ revenue model was adopted in September.

Several provisions outlined how money would be allocated to the regent universities, with 60 percent of the funding based on in-state student enrollment, 15 percent for progress and attainment, 10 percent for access (for a diverse student body), 5 percent for sponsored research, 5 percent weighted for graduate and professional students, and 5 percent based on regent-selected metrics.

Recently, Regents Bruce Rastetter and Katie Mulholland, and all three regent university presidents sent a letter to Iowa legislators, which outlined why the regents thought the new model was equitable.

“The letter to the General Assembly clearly outlines the board’s position, and the university presidents are supportive of the initiative,” Regents’ Executive Director Robert Donley said in a statement.

Rep. Sally Stutsman, D-Riverside, also a former member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, said the weights put in the funding model need to be reviewed, especially because graduate students only account for 5 percent of the funding model.

“It costs a whole lot more to educate a dentist than it does, for instance, a history major,” Stutsman said. “I think we need to be fully aware of that so that everybody is dealing with a level playing field.”

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, who is serving his sixth term, echoed Stutsman, saying his top priority is to develop relationships with “pro-UI legislators” to look at an adequate formula.

“The current Board of Regents is not treating the University of Iowa with respect,” Jacoby said. “So what I’m going to try to do is work with both parties on University of Iowa getting the respect it has earned.”

Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, is the fourth area representative unopposed in the upcoming election.

Mascher said another one of her top priorities includes maintaining Iowa roads and bridges, which she cites as a public-safety issue. The gas tax is an option from covering infrastructure costs.

Reasonable alternatives are up for discussion, but Stutsman said she hasn’t heard of anything that would generate that kind of money to address infrastructure needs.

“Most people don’t want a gas-tax increase, and they’re opposed to gas increases, but they all want safe roads and bridges, so the bottom line is you can’t have it both ways,” Mascher said. “If you want safe roads and bridges, then we have to pay for that some way.”


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