For Katherine Valde, Ben Gillig, and dozens of other UI students, months of hard work have paid off.
On Friday, May 2, the Iowa Legislature concluded its 2014 session, which saw lawmakers guarantee an undergraduate tuition freeze for Iowa residents for the second straight year. The freeze and the funding behind it had been a top priority for the student government leaders.
“As students, we’re grateful that Iowa leaders chose to keep tuition down, but also that they cast a vote in support of higher education,” says Katherine Valde, president of UI Student Government. “This decision means a lot to students and their families.”
State appropriations support essential academic functions and student aid. During fiscal year 2014, state appropriations of $222 million make up 33 percent of the $680 million UI General Education Fund.
The legislature ensured the freeze by approving a 4 percent increase in state funding for each of Iowa’s public universities.
“The tuition freeze itself directly affects undergraduates from Iowa,” says Gillig, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Government, “but the appropriations increase and the decisions to fund projects like a new College of Pharmacy building make a difference for all students. This is especially true for our in-state professional students, whose tuition is kept low by state appropriations.”
On top of the budget and tuition freeze, lawmakers approved:
- Full funding to renovate and replace facilities for the UI College of Pharmacy
- Additional resources for unpaid UI Health Care services to indigent patients following the IowaCare program enrollment cap
- Increased funding that will enable the Iowa Flood Center to build a soil-moisture monitoring network
- Level funding for UI economic development programs
In December, the Iowa Board of Regents voted to freeze undergraduate tuition for Iowa residents, contingent on a 4 percent boost in state appropriations. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad offered his support in January budget recommendations.
With the legislature’s approval last week, tuition rates for Iowa residents will stay frozen at 2012-13 levels for the next academic year—the first two-year freeze since 1975.
“Our university offers a world-class education that’s worth the investment we ask of students and families,” says UI President Sally Mason. “By providing additional resources that help us keep tuition frozen for another year, Iowa leaders show that public higher education is also a worthy shared investment.”
Valde and Gillig joined other student leaders in Des Moines to advocate for higher education funding and the tuition freeze. They met with lawmakers throughout the session, visiting the capitol with peers from Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa on March 24, then returning with over a hundred other UI students for Hawkeye Caucus Day April 2.
“During my visits with legislators across Iowa this past summer and fall, I continued to hear how impressive our students are,” Mason says. “They speak so convincingly about what a UI education means to them, and what it will mean for their families and communities. I can’t thank them enough for their dedication.”