Last Friday a top legislator said the board that governs Iowa, Iowa State and U.N.I. should dip into university reserves rather than raise students’ tuition to deal with the latest round of state budget cuts. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines said the university had "pretty healthy reserves."

But David Miles, president of the Board of Regents, suggests the board doesn’t really have the option at this point of using cash reserves to plug budget holes. "What reserves we have are not freely available. They’re committed to future encumbrances or one kind or another," Miles says. "We really don’t see a lot of opportunity there."

Miles says university officials are looking to identify whatever savings is possible, and Miles expects a report tomorrow from university staff, outlining what reserves might be available. "But particularly in the case of the University of Iowa, we’re actually having to look at doing some short-term debt financing because the flood has so drained down our operating cash," Miles says.

Miles and the presidents of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa are at the statehouse this morning, to testify before a panel of legislators that’s crafting the budget for the Regents institutions in Iowa City, Ames and Cedar Falls as well as the state’s special schools for dear and blind students in Council Bluffs and Vinton.

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 Miles — 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.