The more than 70,000 students at Iowa, Iowa State and UNI won’t face higher tuition bills next year. The board that governs the state-taxpayer-supported universities announced Wednesday afternoon it would not enact a mid-year tuition hike. Board of Regents president Michael Gartner made the announcement surrounded by other board members and student leaders. “This is a very happy afternoon for all of us,” Gartner said. “Well, I think we all hoped that this day would happen but we didn’t know that it would happen until just a few hours ago. I can’t think of anybody who’s sad about this.” The presidents of the three universities asked for the tuition hike after the state legislature did not provide as much money to the universities as university officials wanted. Governor Tom Vilsack then said he would try to find the money elsewhere in the state budget. So, Vilsack amasses some unspent money in the budget from the fiscal year that ended June 30th and shifted funds from other state accounts. “The governor continued to look in every nook and every cranny, in every pot and in every barrel, and he’d call every few days and say ‘I found a little here, a little there,'” Gartner says. Gartner says with the 15-MILLION dollars legislators set aside for the universities, it marks the first time in four years the schools have gotten a budget boost. “We owe great thanks to the legislature. We owe enormous thanks to Governor Vilsack. We owe great thanks to the students and their parents who lobbied the legislature hard for this important turn-around,” Gartner says. University of Northern Iowa student body president Joe Murphy says this, though, should only be the beginning of ramped-up state support of the universities and the students who attend the schools in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City. “Our future does count…and it’s very important that we make sure that young Iowans are able to go to school at these great state institutions,” Murphy says. Teresa Wahlert of Des Moines, another member of the Board of Regents, says Iowa, Iowa State and UNI are an important state industry. “It’s a great tool to use in economic development and in future opportunities for our young people, especially those young people who choose to stay and live and work here,” Wahlert says. The Board of Regents offered a deal to state policymakers — give Iowa, Iowa State and U-N-I 40 MILLION dollars more in state taxdollars, and the universities will embark on an improvement plan that will reallocate up to 20 million within the schools to priority areas. As a result of yesterday’s announcement, the university presidents now promise to shift another five million to priority areas.
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