The board that oversees the operation of the state universities today approved a committee to move toward doing away with the controversial practice of taking part of the tuition paid by students and setting it aside for scholarships for other students. Board of Regents chief academic officer, Diana Gonzalez, read the proposal to the regents.

“The primary element in the proposed charge is for the committee to develop recommendations which would include the elimination of tuition set aside as a funding source for student financial aid,” Gonzalez read. The committee will also seek more state funding for scholarships.

“The recommendations would also be directed at developing strategies for…legislative priorities that would create and adequately fund a state financial aid program,” Gonzalez says. The third element of the committee’s charge is to ask the presidents of Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa to work with their foundations to generate more funding for scholarships.

The committee has a goal of completing the project in five years. The issue became a hot one in the legislature this year and Regents president, Craig Lang, acknowledge he has received many e-mails that called for them to stop the set aside immediately. Lang says that is simply not possible because of the scholarship commitments that have already been made.

“If it can be done quicker, we certainly will do it quicker, but we’ll do it in the right way so we don’t step backwards. And we set that goal at five years,” Lang says. “Hopefully within that time we’ve also understood that the foundations have 10-year plans and goals, monies collected over a long period of time. But hopefully within that time we’ll be able to say that we have eliminated scholarship set aside, we’ve refocused the foundations, we’ve collected more money for gifting and scholarships than any time in the past.”

Regent Craig Rastetter says the creation of the new scholarship fund should have an impact on the cost of college for all students.

“As we would substitute those dollars, that the net result should be the ability to lower instate tuition. That will make in-state opportunity more affordable and accessible to all Iowans,” Rastetter says. “So as we think about those dollars, it wouldn’t be additional dollars, it would be substitution and elimination of tuition set aside. I would challenge the committee that we can do that quicker than five years.”

The set aside money in 2011 was about 21% of the tuition paid or $144,391,000 dollars. The regents say the money was awarded to 25,583 undergraduate and graduate/professional students as need-based and merit-based aid.