A top Democrat in the legislature says leaders of the state universities in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City should consider dipping into cash reserves rather than raising tuition again.
Democrats in the legislature last Thursday released a plan for the next state budgeting year that includes eight-and-a-half percent reductions in spending for many areas of state government, including the state-supported universities. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines suggests raising tuition shouldn’t be the first option.
"I don’t want to create a firestorm, but they have a pretty healthy reserves at this stage and there may be some discussions on whether they’re forced to use those reserves prior to them looking at any tuition," McCarthy says.
In December, the Board of Regents — the panel which governs the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — voted to increase tuition rates for undergraduate students who are residents of Iowa by 4.2 percent next fall. That was before Governor Culver ordered an across-the-board cut in the entire state budget for the current year, and the president of the Board of Regents said in late January raising tuition above the level set in December is an option on the table.
"The universities, under the supervision of the Regents, have pretty healthy reserve accounts. Some of those are obligated for various things, but we may be looking at having them draw down those quite a bit prior to looking at any sort of tuition increases," McCarthy says.
According to McCarthy, students and parents began planning for the next academic year’s expenses once the Board of Regents set tuition rates in December, and it’s "wrong" to change the rules after some may have already lined up student loans for next year. McCarthy made his comments on the IPTV program, "Iowa Press."