The leader of the Iowa Board of Regents today said he will insist on a 4-percent hike in state funding, if Iowans want the board to freeze tuition next year. Regents president, Bruce Rastetter, was the featured speaker at the Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club.

Rastetter says enrollment at the three state supported schools is up and that’s why an increase in funds from the state is critical. “For instance, Iowa State grew 2,500 students, and you don’t do that without extra staff and classrooms available,” Rastetter says. If a freeze moves forward, it would be the first time in 40 years that regents held tuition steady for three years in a row.

Rastetter also briefed talked about the upcoming study of inefficiencies at the schools. “We will look at everything — and I think we have to. We get one bite of the apple on this,” Rastetter says. The late Marvin Pomerantz, a former board president and Des Moines businessman, oversaw the last effort to reduce duplication at the universities back in the 1990’s.

Rastetter is an agribusiness executive and he also spoke about the challenges of feeding a growing world population. The debate over Genetically Modified Organisms intensified with protests in Des Moines this year after the World Food Prize was awarded to researchers in the field.

Rastetter heads up Summit Farms, a consortium of agriculture and energy firms. He downplays the perceived danger of genetically modified foods. “There’s not been a single death in the world attributed to GMO’s,” Rastetter says. “And that clearly hasn’t been true on the other side of the aisle of some of the organic issues with lettuce and so forth that we’ve known. ”

Rastetter says the world must produce more from every acre if it hopes to feed a population projected to grow to nine billion in the next 40 years. And he said research at Iowa State can help address world hunger.