Iowa House Republicans today vowed to "flood the statehouse" with outraged community college students if the governor’s budget is approved in it’s current form. Tuesday, the governor proposed a $5.5 million increase for the 15 community colleges across the state, coupled with a $60 million increase for the three public universities.
Representative Jeff Kaufmann of Wilton is a history teacher at Muscatine Community College. "If this doesn’t change, I will give you my word that I will flood this place with faculty and students," Kaufmann said at a statehouse news conference. "You talk about a wave? This is tsunami like…because you are affecting hundreds of thousands of students and this is their only chance." Kaufmann says the community colleges deserve support, since the serve a lot of people who can’t afford a traditional four year education.
Kaufmann says if Iowa lawmakers are serious about tackling a looming workforce shortage, they should invest in community colleges, because 90 percent of their students stay in Iowa after graduating. GOP Representative Linda Upmeyer of Garner says the governor’s $5.5 million dollar increase for 2009 is quite a blow compared to the $14 million hike last year. She believes it could mean program cuts at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City.
She says the president of NIACC told her that community colleges feel like "the poor stepchild of the entire education system." Republicans warn that the governor’s budget proposal would lead to double digit tuition hikes at Iowa’s community colleges. Upmeyer says Iowa’s community colleges already have the ninth highest tuition rates in the country and any increase will only send students deeper into debt.