The Board of Regents approved a recommendation Wednesday to do away with a controversial program that takes tuition money from some students and sets it aside to be used as financial aid for other students in need. The committee appointed by the board to review the issue recommends the board ask the state legislature for $39.5 million to replace the setaside funds.
Regent David Miles of West Des Moines defended the program and said it got the unfortunate setaside label. But Miles said the committee recommendation should resolve the issue for those who have concerns. “I think this is a very strong move in the right direction. I think it is important that Iowa and Iowans keep a door open — maintain access and affordability — for students and families that have financial need, we cannot take a step backwards in that,” Miles said.
Miles said he wants more details on how the new plan would work. “An element that’s not addressed that I would like to see addressed in a very clear fashion is how the dollars will get allocated to the universities,” Miles says. “I know that work has been done on that. There is a model out there for the private colleges and universities, it is one thing that we could look at, but I think it’s a very important question as to how those dollars actually get allocated.”
The new plan also calls for the board to work with the foundations at the U-I, Iowa State University and U.N.I. to raise money for merit-based scholarships. Regent Bruce Rastetter of Ames asked for more details on that part of the plan. “I additionally would like to see between now and the end of October the more defined commitment from the foundations to be able to raise the merit dollars,” Rastetter said.
“Because I think that is a critical aspect of us asking the state for more support, that the universities are doing their part to participate in this, and in particular the foundations are focused on making sure they replace those dollars to be able to continue to have those programs there.”
Rastetter said it will be important to note that they will be able to lower tuition for other students if they get money from the state and the foundations to use for students in need. “So it is not new state dollars that the universities are going to receive, it is a substitute for the students in need, and then we would reset the tuition clock, and lower instate tuition upon receiving those dollars,” Rastetter explained. “And I think that is a critical aspect of being successful with this.”
The current set-aside proposal came under fire this year as critic said it raised tuition on some students as a way to force them to subsidize the education of low income students with financial aid. The regents will discuss the issue again at their meeting in October.