The legislature’s top Republican is calling on the Board of Regents to come up with a new state funding formula to ensure the University of Northern Iowa doesn’t get short-changed because over 90 percent of its students are Iowa residents. Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha said distributing state aid more equally among UNI, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa is his concern.
“If the University of Northern Iowa continues to accept the crumbs from the other two institutions, then that’s what they will get into perpetuity,” Paulsen told reporters Thursday. “The general aid distribution formula needs to be changed and it needs to be changed, probably, in a fairly substantial fashion.”
The disparity in state-taxpayer support among the three Regents universities has grown over the years. Compared to its counterparts, the University of Iowa benefits financially from a student body that has far more out-of-state students who pay pricier tuition rates. There is no “per student” formula now for state aid to the three state-universities, but according to calculations released by the House speaker’s staff, state spending per student is over $13,000 at Iowa, compared to about $9000 per student at ISU and a little less than $8000 per student at UNI. Paulsen said that’s a “significant problem” that needs to be fixed.
“It has been communicated to the Board of Regents,” Paulsen told reporters. “They need to come back with us for a proposal and they need to come back to us with a proposal that is helpful and makes a difference for the University of Northern Iowa.”
The Board of Regents appointed a task force that’s been meeting since last fall to come up with a new formula to distribute state taxpayer support among the universities and is scheduled to deliver its recommendations in June. In the meantime, the University of Northern Iowa is asking legislators for a one-time budget boost of about four-million dollars because the second year of a tuition freeze for in-state undergrads is a budget hit to the Cedar Falls school. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs is sympathetic.
“Their percentage of in-state tuition students is much higher than either of the other two institutions,” Gronstal told reporters Thursday. “Therefore, when we commit to a tuition freeze, that freeze impacts UNI more than the other two institutions, so I want to be clear about that. In a very real sense, it’s not an extra payment.”
Gronstal said the $4 million will make UNI’s allotment of state resources more “equal” with Iowa and ISU. Governor Branstad included the extra $4 million for UNI in his budget plan. Senate Democrats have it in their budget outline, too.