The State Board of Regents approved the first reading Thursday of proposed tuition increases of nearly 4% for Iowa State University and the University of Iowa and nearly 3% for UNI. Student leaders spoke before the vote, with UNI leader Drew Stensland speaking first.

“It is the students’ stance that tuition be held to as low of an increase as possible with the budget constraints that the university faces,” Stensland says. “Quality education is absolutely vital to students who attend UNI, but the reality is that the cost of going to UNI in comparison to our peer institutions is anything but advantageous.” He told the Regents they have to make sure the cost of education does not get too high for students.

“I don’t envy the decisions that you have to make, and looking forward it is up to you to make sure that you look forward and make sure that the students who come after me have the awesome experience that I am having,” Stensland says. Iowa State University student body president Cody West says he supports the “differential” approach to tuition which charges different amounts for different programs.

“Of all the approaches that we have seen — this one seems to make the most sense to me and the students that I represent,” West says. “This concept is a logical, factual one that will benefit the financial security of the universe. but I would be remiss to say that I fear it has far reaching consequences that are to complex to comprehend at times.” West is ending his term and says in the state budget cuts cannot continue if ISU is to maintain its quality.

“ISU continues to remain in a delicate balance of accessibility and quality. The only option that remains to ensure a quality education is to place this on the backs of students, West says. “I know that I and many of my peers may not have had the opportunity to attend and continue our education if we had enrolled in ISU this fall. For the last time as student body president I want to warn the legislature — they are heading down a dark and unforgiving path.” University of Iowa student president Jacob Simpson called on the school to continue working to make school affordable.

“Financial aid policies and practices must be reviewed and reformed to increase retention and graduation rates and to decrease student debt,” Simpson says. Simpson says the school cannot continue to take cuts in state support.

“The University of Iowa community as a whole should continue to encourage the governor and the Iowa Legislature to fund our institution at an appropriate level because of our invaluable service and our impact on the state, nation and the world,” according to Simpson. Regent Larry McKibbon of Marshalltown told the students there is one person who can have the final say on the issue. He encouraged the students to set up a meeting with the governor.

“I believe the governor would absolutely make time to listen to you and the things that you talked about today,” McKibben says. McKibben says the continued cuts in state funding have hurt the universities and he says they should give back 12 million dollars cut from the budgets.

He says he understands that it is difficult for the legislators to make these budget decisions — but he says the students have delivered the message that it is difficult if they do not provide the funding. The Board of Regents will have their second and final reading on the tuition proposal in June.