Although Iowa’s public universities will see almost $5 million more in state funding for the next budget year, it’s far less than what’s needed for students at the institutions to avoid another tuition hike.
The $5 million that Statehouse leaders see as likely is far less than the $20 million increase the Board of Regents initially requested for the universities,
And it’s also short of the $8 million increase that regents President Bruce Rastetter said last month is the minimum needed to avoid the additional tuition hikes.
“It’s very possible” the universities will have to raise second-semester tuition next year, predicted Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr. “There’s no way we can get to $8 million.”
Dolecheck and Sen. Brian Schoenjahn, D-Arlington, co-chairmen of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, plan to finalize the numbers when the panel meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
But it will be a status quo budget for higher education other than $4.9 million more for the three universities — the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — Schoenjahn said.
“Every penny we can find in this budget is going to higher education,” he said.
The co-chairs predict that community colleges may get a slight increase also.
“We’re protecting our two main priorities,” Dolecheck said. Other parts of the education budget will have to keep services the same.
“This is the most austere budget I can recall,” said Schoenjahn, who was first elected in 2004.
The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate have reached agreement on an overall general fund budget number — $7.35 billion. Of that, $1,009,736,682 is earmarked for education.
That appears to be a $17.5 million increase. However, Schoenjahn pointed out that $12.6 million of that is an accounting change. One budget category was shifted from another part of the budget to education, he said.
“It’s just crumbs,” Schoenjahn said about the budget. “I think we’re past the point of diminishing returns. We have to reinvest in higher education, but it won’t happen in this budget.”
After three years without a tuition increase for resident undergraduates, the regents approved 3 percent hikes at ISU and UNI beginning this semester and at UI beginning in the fall.
Since 2006-07, resident undergraduate tuition has increased roughly $1,697 from an average of $5,094 per year to $6,791, or 33 percent, according to the regents.
According to Rastetter, state funding now amounts to 31 percent and tuition to 64 percent of university budgets.
Earlier this year, the regents had requested increases of $4.5 million for the UI, $8.2 million for ISU and $7.7 million for UNI.
Regents justified the requests by citing UNI’s budget challenges, as a majority of its students pay lower in-state tuition rates; ISU’s swelling student body, which has surged 25 percent in five years; and UI’s focus on strengthening faculty for a growing student population.
UI President Bruce Harreld noted at a recent town hall meeting that the university has dropped 20 places in national faculty salary rankings.
He said the additional money was needed for “increasing salaries of tenure-track faculty who are nationally competitive in their fields of study and whose salaries are well behind their peers.” And he said it was needed to be able to recruit faculty in “key areas of excellence.”