An Iowa Policy Project report concludes state funding for public K-through-12 schools has been stabilized, but state support of the three state universities has declined “precipitously” since 1997.

Andrew Cannon, who holds a masters in public policy from the University of Iowa, says state taxpayers’ support of higher education isn’t keeping up with the need. “When you have tuition rising as quickly as it is and as it has been over the past dozen years looking at the price tag can be pretty daunting,” Cannon says. “…There’s a bit of sticker shock, so failing to invest who would want to go to college otherwise.”

Cannon made calculations to adjust for inflation and concluded that since July 1 of 1997, overall state education spending has declined by 17% — and state funding for community colleges, the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa has “borne the brunt of that reduction.”

Mike Owen, assistant director of the Iowa Policy Project, says that illustrates the choices state legislators and three of the state’s governors have been making over the past 13 years.

“When they’re cutting higher education funding and at the sme time, tuitions and fees are going up, I mean that is a choice that our policy-makers are making for people who want to go to college,” Owen says. “…Like any budget decision being made, it’s really a question of the values of what we want our public funding to do.”

From 1997 to 2007, enrollment at Iowa community colleges grew by 45%. The Iowa Policy Project report concludes state support of the community colleges declined by 17% during that decade of massive enrollment growth.

The report’s author also reviewed tuition for the three state-supported universities and concluded it has tripled over the past decade.