Democrats say they’re “outraged” Governor Terry Branstad’s budget plan did not allocate more resources for community colleges. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says Branstad is proposing a “status quo” budget for the community colleges, which means no increase in state funding for the colleges.
“I was incredibly disappointed that the governor put together a budget that ignores community colleges,” Gronstal says.
According to Gronstal, the formula developed to calculate what community colleges need in terms of state aid suggests the colleges need a $17.5 million funding boost in state support. Gronstal says 60 percent of the Iowa workforce needs at least two years of training beyond a high school diploma and the governor has “completely ignored” those students.
“I just think that’s outrageous,” Gronstal says. “Obviously the legislature’s going to speak on this and speak loudly and do a better job by community colleges than the governor did.”
Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, warns community college tuition will likely go up if Branstad’s recommendation is adopted.
“Higher community college tuition would be yet one more barrier to Iowans trying to join the middle class,” Jochum says. “So to grow our economy, Iowans have to be able to attend community colleges which are absolutely key to solving Iowa’s skilled worker shortage.”
House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown says the governor has made a “serious” mistake with his “stale” funding proposal for community colleges.
House Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock says there is “broad support” among Republicans for the work of community colleges, but he is not ready to say Republicans in the legislature will go along with Democrats on this.
“What’s important to me and the Senate Republicans is whatever we do on budget is that it falls within our guiding principles of not spending more than what we take in,” Dix says. “Families have to balance their budgets that way and we just need to make those choices.”
Dix admits it’s possible lawmakers may provide a budget boost to the three state-supported universities to ensure those university students get a tuition freeze for a second straight year, while community college students may see their tuition go up. Dix says tuition rates are “local decisions” made at the 15 area community colleges.
A spokesman for the governor points to the budget boost community colleges got last year, and the governor’s decision to maintain that same level of funding for the community colleges.
“Last year Gov. Branstad signed a proposal giving community colleges a nine percent increase in funding over the previous fiscal year,” said Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for Branstad. “In addition, Gov. Branstad’s budget in FY15 continues funding the Iowa Skilled Worker and Job Creation fund for community colleges by over $30 million.”
From: Kay Henderson [mailto:[email protected]]