Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during her first Condition of the State address in the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Reynolds took over the governor office in May 2017. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Additional cuts to Iowa higher-education funding likely in 2018

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The state’s trend of disinvestment in support for higher education continues with the governor’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal.

By Marissa Payne

marissa-payne@uiowa.edu

The state Board of Regents may see another reduction in state support amounting to $5.1 million if the state Legislature approves Gov. Kim Reynolds’ budget proposal.

At the start of fiscal 2017 (July 1, 2016), the regents received $513.6 million in appropriations. In February 2017, the General Assembly approved a midyear reduction in appropriations totaling $20.8 million across the three universities. Funding was reduced again in April 2017, with the state Legislature deciding universities would receive $9.6 million less for fiscal 2018.

The budget proposal includes a recommendation of $214.3 million in appropriations for the University of Iowa in fiscal 2019 — a reduction to the general fund of about $2.4 million. Iowa State University would see $1.9 million less under the governor’s proposal. No cuts were recommended for the University of Northern Iowa.

Reynolds also recommended a $7.3 million increase to the regents’ enterprise in fiscal 2019. If Reynolds’ proposed cuts to the current year’s budget are approved, the funds would result in a net increase upwards of $2 million. The proposal falls short of the regents’ request for an additional $12 million in appropriations across the three regent universities, which would be earmarked for resident undergraduate financial aid.

In her Condition of the State address on Tuesday, Reynolds did not mention higher-education funding specifically, but said “education is a priority, and we will continue to back that up with real money.”

RELATED: After Tuition Task Force meetings, regents ask: ‘What do we do next?’

Regent Executive Director Mark Braun said in a statement that the regents would continue working with the state Legislature and governor to see to it that sufficient funding is provided for the universities. He expressed appreciation for Reynolds’ support of higher education.

“ … We will continue to be good stewards of all funding, including appropriated funds,” Braun said. “Any reduction is challenging, but the Board recognizes the current fiscal situation the state is facing. We will work with our institutions to make any required FY18 reductions in ways that have as little impact on students as possible.”

Provided state support remains consistent, UI President Bruce Harreld proposed a plan at the UI’s Tuition Task Force meeting to raise tuition each year by 7.08 percent for resident undergraduates and 2.08 percent for nonresident undergraduates over the next five years.

UI Student Government President Jacob Simpson noted the change Regent President Mike Richards has ushered in since the departure of former Regent President Bruce Rastetter in a December 2017 interview with The Daily Iowan. Simpson said the summer 2017 Tuition Task Force meetings helped to provide insight on the UI’s thoughts on tuition in the long term.

“It’s all a balance to achieve a predictable funding model and then also important to us is the predictability for students,” he said.

The first reading of tuition rates for the 2018-19 academic year is set to take place at the regents’ February meeting at ISU, with the final vote planned for June. In the past, regents typically took the final vote in December meetings after an initial reading of tuition rates in October.

RELATED: Iowa regents have ‘no timetable’ for first reading of fiscal 2019 tuition rates

After two consecutive summer votes to hike tuition, Richards has said the later-than-usual tuition rate-setting timetable is an effort to make tuition predictable for students and families. However, with the final vote on tuition being scheduled in June, the timing of the final vote on tuition remains unchanged.

“I think there’s still a cat-and-mouse game going on between the state and the Board of Regents as to, “OK, we’ll see what you do, and then we’ll figure out what we should do,'” Harreld previously told the DI. “And who goes first in all of that? We’ll see how this plays out.”

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