Kraig Paulsen

Kraig Paulsen

The budget plan House Republicans released this week does not include the extra money officials who govern the three state universities requested in order to maintain a tuition freeze.

“You know I’m not so sure they’re not in a position to do a tuition freeze regardless of whatever the state appropriation is,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha, the top Republican in the legislature, told reporters Thursday.

In December, the board that governs the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa voted to keep next year’s tuition for in-state students at the same rate it’s been for the past two years — if legislators provide a 1.75 percent increase in state taxpayer support of the three universities. Paulsen suggests university officials can rearrange spending priorities and keep tuition rates low on their own, without additional state resources.

“I understand that the momentum of a tuition increase being tied to what we do here in the General Assembly,” Paulsen said. “They seem to be linked a whole lot.”

The Board of Regents proposal to base state taxpayer support of Iowa, Iowa State and UNI on a “performance-based formula” isn’t being embraced by Republicans or Democrats in the legislature, either. The board made the proposal, in part, to direct more money to the University of Northern Iowa and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, the top Democrat in the legislature, said UNI is likely to get a funding boost, even if legislators reject the performance-based formula.

“There is broad recognition that UNI, because of its greater number of in-state students, is much more dramatically impacted when it comes to a tuition freeze than the other two institutions,” Gronstal said during an interview. “…There’s a consensus in the legislature that we need to deal with that inequity.”

Under the decades-old formula for distributing state funding, the University of Iowa gets 46 percent, Iowa State gets 36 percent and UNI gets 18 percent.