Iowa college students returning from holiday break are paying more than they originally budgeted for tuition in the new semester. A one-hundred dollar surcharge now applies at Iowa’s three public universities and fall semester tuition may be up to 6% higher. Governor Chet Culver’s 10% across-the-board cut to balance the current state budget lopped 10% from state tuition grants, which also affects Iowa’s private college students.
Emily Ryan, a freshman at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, says the cut means she’s losing 435-dollars “…which actually hurts,” Ryan says. “I’m paying for college on my own. Maybe $435 doesn’t seem like a lot, but it does (hurt). My tuition has already jumped up so it is going to be a little more difficult to attend Coe.”
Iowa had budgeted $48-million for private college tuition grants, but then was forced to trim four-point-eight million. Gary Steinke, president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, says the grants make private colleges affordable to needy students, but whacking 10% from those grants in the middle of the school year is devastating.
“When a student knows what they’re going to have to pay and knows what their financial responsibility is and they’ve agreed to it, which means they’ll be able to make those payments, and then to have the rug pulled out from under them with another $320 cut mid-year,” Steinke says. “One student told me, ‘To try and find $320, it may as well be $320,000 because I don’t have either one.'” University of Dubuque President Jeffrey Bullock likes the tuition grants because the money goes directly to students.
“They make the decision,” Bullock says. “We don’t receive money from the Iowa Tuition Grant. The Iowa Tuition Grant money goes into the hand or the pocket of the taxpayer and the consumer makes the decision about where they want to go to school and that seems to make a lot of sense to me.” But Bullock says some University of Dubuque students can’t make up the lost money and won’t be back this semester, even though a third of the university’s budget goes to student aid.
“Yes, the university has compensated,” Bullock says. “We give a significant amount of money away every year. About a third of our operating budget goes directly to the student in the form of financial aid and assistance. That’s a lot of money. Most of that money does not come from our endowment. Those are real dollars.” Bullock says for every dollar the U-of-Dubuque gets from the Iowa Tuition Grant fund, the university matches it seven or eight times over. Meanwhile, Steinke says the situation translates into a plea to Iowa lawmakers.
“My message to the legislature will be: Please don’t make any further cuts in this program,” Steinke says. “This is a program that provides dollars directly to students, not to private colleges, but directly to students, and the most needy students in the state of Iowa at that.” The 2010 state legislative session opens Monday.