Hundreds of students from Iowa’s three, state-supported universities rallied at the statehouse today, railing against state budget cuts. Craig Long of Essex is an Iowa State University senior majoring in political science.

“Every tuition increase that we face and that we have faced in the last two or three years is just killer,” he says. “You know, Iowa State students graduate with somewhere around, like, $26,000 to $28,000 of debt on average and I’m already there and I’ve got another semester, at least, so it’s really vital that this stops now and that’s really what got me down here.”

David Miles, president of the Board of Regents, the nine-member board which governs Iowa, Iowa State and U.N.I., spoke at a statehouse rally organized by the students. “After years of doing more with less, after too many tuition increases that have been too high and with a brighter outlook for the Iowa economy we ask ourselves, is now the time for the state to cut support for Iowa’s public universities even further?” Miles asked. “….For me the answer is clear. It is time to stop the cuts.”

According to Miles, while overall state spending grew 28 percent since 2001, state funding for the universities has been reduced during that period by 24%. “Sadly, as we meet here today, we face the prospect of yet more reductions in state appropriations,” Miles told the students at the rally. “It is time to change course before the damage to quality and affordability become irreversible.”

A small contingent of Iowa State students who’re members of College Republicans staged a counter-rally. Logan Pals of Mason City is an Iowa State University senior studying industrial engineering. “There are people at the university level that understand that we can’t afford what we’re doing anymore and we have to cut the budget,” Pals said during an interview with Radio Iowa.

“We’re on an unsustainable path and we can’t do it anymore.” As state spending on the universities declines, Pals isn’t an advocate of tuition hikes for students, however. “You know, the university’s a government entity just like everybody else and they’re not efficient. They’re inefficient and it’s a fact. They are. They have waste everywhere,” Pals said.

“And so (what) we’re saying is that they can afford a budget cut.” Governor Branstad is recommending that the state spend $33-million  less on the state universities in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City in the next budgeting year.