Democrat Mike Blouin, is promising a temporary freeze on community college tuition rates and a cash infusion for the 15 area community colleges if he’s elected governor. “They’ve had a huge increase in student enrollment while state funding has been basically flat,” Blouin says.
Iowa’s community colleges are charging some of the nation’s highest tuition rates, mainly because state taxpayer support has declined in the past two decades. Blouin says in 1980, about 50 percent of community college budgets were financed with state tax dollars. Today, about 40 percent of the community college budget is state tax dollars.
Blouin proposes plunking 40-million dollars into community college job training programs next year, with a growing amount in each of the next four years. “For those who are going through tremendous transitions in the workplace, for the school-to-work folks, for the career programs that tie in our high schools,” Blouin says. Before serving as leader of the Chambers of Commerce in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines,
Blouin was an administrator at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids for six years. “I saw an amazing transformation in the community college system in the ’80s where we were able to reach out, very much like the founders of that program envisioned, and adapt to the different needs of people all over the state,” Blouin says.
Blouin says unfortunately, state funding for the community college system this year is just two million dollars more than it was in 2001, and Blouin says the schools can’t keep pace with demand. “I now see the state pulling back from a program that not only touches over 80,000 Iowans every year but sees over 90 percent of those (graduates) stay in the state,” Blouin says. “It’s the absolute last place where we need to have problems.”
Last week Blouin promised to temporarily freeze tuition rates at the state-supported universities in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City.