Governor Branstad, a graduate of the University of Iowa, will join students from Iowa, Iowa State and UNI this evening at a rally on the state fairgrounds. Greta Johnson, a University of Northern Iowa student, is the student-member of the board that governs the public universities and she’s part of a new group called “Universities for a Better Iowa” that will host tonight’s rally.
“Please join us as we share how vital these universities are and how they deserve public support,” Johnson said last Thursday during a statehouse news conference. “Hear students and alumni share personal stories about the value and impact of the public universities and learn how you can help protect them.”
The event is designed to increase public pressure on Republicans in the Iowa House who’ve voted to cut state support of the universities by $31 million. Elliot Higgins of Ottumwa — the student body president at the University of Iowa — said the students will do more than just rally tonight in Des Moines. They plan a public relations blitz of speaking engagements around the state as well.
“At each stop across the state, students will present their personal stories and share why Iowa’s public universities are valuable not only to us, but to Iowa’s economy,” Higgins said.
According to University of Northern Iowa student body president Spencer Walrath, every dollar the state invests in higher education yields a $14 return in economic activity in the state.
“There is no better investment that the state can make in its future,” Walrath said.
Iowa State University student body president Dakota Hoben of Grandview, Iowa, called higher education an investment, not an expense.
“We have always said that our state’s most precious resource is its human capital,” Hoben said. “Today we are advocating for just that — an investment in our human capital.”
The students cite a recent report showing state support of the three universities has fallen 40 percent in the past decade.
The top Republican in the Iowa House said Friday “it isn’t outrageous” to suggest the universities see a reduction in state support next year as well. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen has met with each of the university presidents in the past week and Paulsen said he’s encouraged by some of the things he’s hearing from them.
“However, the institutions themselves still seem to have a kind of entitlement attitude and you don’t just get to show up at the legislature say, ‘We want this much money,’ and we just blindly write a check,” Paulsen said. “…We’re stewards on behalf of the taxpayers of Iowa. It’s going to have to be explained to us.”
Paulsen, a graduate of Iowa State University and the law school at the University of Iowa, made his comments this weekend during an appearance on the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press” (watch the video/read the transcript here).