Governor Branstad says it is not appropriate for legislators to try to pass bills that would limit the Board of Regents authority to set tuition for students at Iowa, Iowa State and UNI.

The House Appropriations Committee voted last week to freeze tuition at current levels, an attempt to override the board’s decision to increase tuition by 3.75 percent this fall.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the legislature to make that decision,” Branstad said this morning during his weekly news conference. “I think that should be made by the Regents, based on what the needs of the universities are.”

The Board of Regents is a nine-member board which oversees the operations of the three, state-supported universities in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City. Branstad appoints the board members, but each must win confirmation in the Iowa Senate to serve. Branstad is not directly threatening to veto a bill that would freeze tuition rates at current levels, but the governor said it “is not good policy.”

“I don’t think freezing the tuition or having the legislature impose limits on the tuition is the appropriate way to go,” Branstad said this morning. “I think the legislature has a role, in the appropriations process, but I also recognize that the Board of Regents is the governing board that oversees the universities and I think they’re the appropriate ones to make the decisions on tuition.”

Branstad’s fellow Republicans in the Iowa House are unhappy with the three universities and they’ve proposed reducing state taxpayer support of the schools by $31 million next year. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen has repeatedly said the Regents haven’t yet justified an increase in state support. Last Thursday Paulsen accused university officials of refusing to answer questions from legislators.

“I don’t want to get into details of those,” Paulsen said. “I would tell you I personally, this before I was speaker, personally I ask them a question as a rank-and-file member and it took them 18 months to finally give me an answer that wasn’t even on point. Those types of things are frustrating.”

When another Republica legislator was asked whether the House GOP’s aim might be trying to force the universities to become private colleges. Representative Nick Wagner said converting from a state-supported university to a private college would be a decision each of the institutions would have to make on their own.

Find the audio of the governor’s news conference here.