The Board of Regents is promising to hold tuition increases to the rate of inflation if the state legislature boosts funding for the universities by 40 million dollars a year for the next four years. Regents Executive Director Greg Nichols outlined the proposal for the government oversight committee…saying it will help the universities rebuild after several years of budget cuts. The Regents’ budget for the 3 universities today is 100-million dollars less than it was three years ago, Nichols says. So, even if this plan’s adopted, it would take three years for the level of state support to return to what it’s been in the past. In return, the three universities would be asked to internally reallocate 20-million dollars a year to higher priority programs. Nichols says the board of regents is expected to sign off on this plan next week when they adopt a tuition increase limited to the rate of higher-education inflation. Nichols says it would mean this coming year students would see an increase of only 4-percent, or about 188-dollars for in-state undergrads, compared to increases two, three or 4 times that large in recent years. Nichols says the board is moving ahead with the tuition hike to show how optimistic it is that the legislature will approve the increased spending. But republican representative Willard Jenkins of Waterloo says the board may be putting lawmakers on the spot if they can’t come up with that much money….”We catch arrows from a lot of people,” Jenkins says, and if they can’t come up with the 40-million the regents can blame them for it. But he points out the legislature’s not in session now and there’s no way lawmakers can commit what they’ll provide to the universities. Jenkins says there’s no doubt in his mind that the state needs to increase funding for the universities, and he thinks a tuition guarantee for Iowa residents who are undergraduate students is the right way to use it. Still, Jenkins says 40-million dollars in new funding is a “tall order.” Jenkins figures that comes out to 800 or 900-dollars per student, and whether the legislature can come up with it remains to be seen. Jenkins says the requrest is in, and that begins a negotiation process. “We’ll see where it goes to,” he says.
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