The leaders of Iowa’s three public universities came to the capital Thursday to ask for an increase in state funding. The presidents of UNI, Iowa and Iowa State told members of the Education Budget Committee that last year’s cuts forced them to shrink programs and cut workstudy, and it’s time to start their recovery. University of Northern Iowa president Robert Koob says students have faced double-digit tuition increases two years in a row, and the rising cost has cut graduation rates since students must work longer to pay their bills, and they enter the workforce later, then consider moving out of state to earn enough to pay off their debt load. Iowa State University president Gregory Geoffrey says the schools had to fire faculty after last year’s budget cuts and that’s unwise considering the research dollars they bring in. Geoffrey says faculty at the three institutions last year brought in almost $600 Million for research funding, an increase of 14-percent over the previous year and almost all of it from outside Iowa. And University of Iowa incoming president David Skorton says all three schools offer residents benefits beyond a college education. As an example, he cited the U’s hygienic lab which he says was “instrumental” in dealing with anthrax concerns after 9/11 and with the ongoing threat of West Nile Virus. He says the lab is becoming a state and national resource for bio-terrorism response, as well as testing the state’s drinking water, surface water and air quality. The governor’s calling for the Universities’ budgets to remain unchanged this year, while the presidents are asking for an increase of $11.5 million — and that doesn’t include requests for salary increases or more building maintenance, which they say will come later.
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