Gov. Kim Reynolds | Facebook
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has recommended a $15 million boost to the budget of the three state Board of Regents universities in fiscal year 2021, which is $3 million short of the regents' request.
If lawmakers approve Reynolds' request, the University of Iowa will receive an additional $6.7 million, Iowa State University, $5.3 million and the University of Northern Iowa, $3 million.
“We will continue to be good stewards with funding that our universities receive. We will continue to advocate for a level of funding that is needed to provide the first-class education that our students demand," said Regent Executive Director Mark Braun.
He cited a recent report that showed the states three public universities contributed more than $11 billion to Iowa's economy in 2018. The Daily Iowan reports that the universities support almost 150,000 jobs and provide almost a $3 return for every dollar spent.
Rep. Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City) said many of Iowa's college graduates are lost to other states where they can earn more money and pay off their student loans quicker. She said Iowa needs to be an attractive place for skilled workers to live, and the state universities play a key role in addressing the state's worker shortage.
Rep. Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City) said that tuition increases cannot be the only solution to university funding. If the governor's recommendation is approved by lawmakers, tuition will increase by 3 percent, but if the state's funding falls short, that rate could be higher.
Several Democratic lawmakers noted that Reynolds' Condition of the State address failed to directly address the universities. Instead, she promoted her Future Ready Iowa initiative to prepare 70 percent of the workforce with training or education beyond high school by 2025. She also requested an increase in funding for the Last Dollar Scholarship, a component of Future Ready Iowa.
Some lawmakers said it seemed odd that the governor didn't fully fund the regents' request given that they agreed to enter into a public-private partnership with Hawkeye Energy Collaborative, a $1.1 billion agreement to operate the UI utility system. Some worried that this partnership would provide incentive for lawmakers to provide less funding to the state universities given the partnership is expected to grow $3 billion over the 50-year agreement.