Shortly after The University of Iowa announced that it would seek a tuition increase of more than nine percent for the next fiscal year, Johnson County's state legislators held a town meeting to discuss funding for all years of educationK-Ph.D., as one panelist put it.
The panel included representatives of K-12 education, community colleges, University of Iowa Student Government, the Parents Association (represented by board member Gordon Epping) and University administration.
Andy Stoll, president of the University of Iowa Student Government, spoke in favor of the increase. When UISG announced its tentative support for the University's position, some students accused Stoll and other student legislators of selling out. But the issue has been subdued, and Stoll said most students understand that the University had to do what it did in order to provide the new services and improvements that students want to see at Iowa.
"In terms of our peer schools, which includes more than just the Big Ten universities, we are ninth on a list of 10" in terms of the amounts of tuition and fees, Stoll told the audience.
An Iowa City resident suggested that students should pay more for their education. Another resident said she thought the decision to shift state resources to K-12 education and community colleges made sense.
Phillip Jones, vice president for student services, said that even with the proposed increase, Iowa's tuition is "one of the greatest bargains in the country, but it requires a partnership between the University and the state of Iowa to maintain it. It's not as much a matter of reducing state funding and increasing tuition as it is to use both to remain competitive."
The panelists agreed that the state of Iowa needs to support all levels of public education. As Epping said, "I'm here as an advocate for The University of Iowa, but we've got to deal with the K-12 issue. The money is needed to support K-12 education in the state."
He suggested that the legislature look at all the small school districts that might be consolidated into more effective, efficient operations. State Legislator Mary Mascher said the legislature was looking at plans to reduce K-12 costs while improving educational opportunities for students at the same time.
Stoll said the students have come to understand that the fault lies in the timing of the University's budget, the Board of Regents budget, and the decisions of the state legislature and Governor Tom Vilsack. The University has to negotiate unionized employees' salary levels long before the state appropriation to the University is final, he said. By the time the University knew last year that the state of Iowa was cutting its appropriation to the University, the only place to find funds to replace the state money was in delaying improvements that students had requested.
"So students were asked to pay more but they didn't get more," he said. "Of course they don't like that, but they understand that the University had a hard choice to make. The real problem is the way the (state) budgeting is done."
Jones said that surveys have indicated that the main thing students want is increased financial aid. He pointed out that 17 percent of every dollar paid in tuition in the current budget goes to financial aid, and that will increase in the next budget.
Related site: University of Iowa Student Government tuition site