Governor Terry Branstad talked about the proposed tuition freeze while speaking to the Board of Regents at their meeting in Iowa City Thursday. The governor says he has fond memories of when he went to college in the 1960’s, but says things have change a lot since then. “Many of our students today are very concerned about be saddled with unmanageable debt upon graduation,” according to Branstad.
He credited the board that oversees the three state schools with being able to hold the line on tuition last year and says he is open to their proposal to do the same thing again. “We’re considering the idea of a freeze for this coming year — obviously I have to wait for the December revenue estimate so I know what I have to build the budget on,” Branstad says.
The governor says funding for all other areas of state government have to be considered along with the funding for the universities in determining if the tuition freeze is possible. “It would be something we certainly would love to be able to do, because I understand the last time we had two years in a row without a tuition increase for undergraduate resident students was 1975,” Branstad says.
The student government leaders also addressed the board on the tuition freeze proposal. Iowa State University student body president, Spencer Hughes, says he supports the proposal — but is concerned about the small increase proposed for non-resident and graduate students. “Regardless of the magnitude of these increases, we as a state are choosing to place a higher burden onto these students as they pursue their education,” Hughes says.
He says it is important to not make the out-of-state tuition unaffordable. “As a state we should be making every effort to encourage more nonresident students to attend our universities,” Hughes argued. “The growth of our economy depends on a well-educated workforce. And no group of people will spend more time in the workforce than new college graduates.”
Hughes says Iowa State already has many great things to draw in nonresident students. “The one area in which we can continue to improve the desirability of our university to non-resident students is the price tag. When we provide even more reason for nonresident students to come to Iowa, even more will choose to stay. It’s another way to invest in the future of our state,” Hughes explains.
University of Northern Iowa student body president, Tom Madsen, says the student government supports the tuition freeze as long as it doesn’t hurt the quality of their education. He says they also want to see continued support for UNI.
“The Senate has stated that it will support a tuition freeze, if and only if the University of Northern Iowa receives a modest four-percent fiscal year 2015 funding increase and special funding for fiscal stabilization permanently added to our budget,” Madsen says.
He says the special funding is needed because of UNI’s student makeup. “Ninety-point-seven of our enrolled undergraduate students are residents of Iowa, including myself,” Madsen says, “meaning a majority of our incoming tuition dollars would be frozen for the second year in a row if the tuition freeze is approved.”
The Board of Regents will take a final vote on the tuition freeze at their meeting in December. The board says the freeze in dependant on the governor and legislature approving their request for a $20-million increase in general state funding for the schools.