The Iowa House of Representatives defeated a last-minute lobbying effort by the Iowa Board of Regents and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) to take $3 million away from financially needy students at small, non-profit colleges. Small college spokesman Gary Steinke called the attempt “greedy and despicable.”
The Iowa House on April 17 voted down an education appropriations bill amendment by Representative Bob Kressig (D-Cedar Falls) that would have taken $3 million from the Iowa Tuition Grant (ITG) program and designated it solely for students at UNI. The introduction of the amendment, H-1360, followed an email blast by UNI to several thousand Iowans asking them to contact their legislators to take the ITG funding and re-direct it to UNI students.
“The State of Iowa already subsidizes the Regent universities by more than $11,000 for every Iowa student they have, regardless of their financial need,” said Steinke, President of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (IAICU). “And still, apparently, it’s not enough for the big Regent universities,” he said.
The Iowa Tuition Grant was established by the Legislature in 1969 to provide grants to financially needy Iowa students who attend Iowa private, non-profit colleges and universities. The fund has always been restricted to students at private, non-profit institutions and is a tiny fraction, less then 10%, of the amount of state funding provided the Regent universities. No institutional, operational or infrastructure funding is provided to private, non-profit colleges in Iowa. Approximately 12,000 students received a maximum of $5,650 per student in ITG grants this academic year.
Steinke, himself a former Board of Regents Executive Director and Governmental Affairs Director for Iowa State University, further noted, “What UNI and the Board of Regents have done is unprecedented. Never before has one sector of higher education directly and deliberately lobbied the Legislature to scoop funds from another sector’s programs or budgets. It’s especially unconscionable to lobby to scoop funds that go to low-income students to be re-directed to those at an already heavily subsidized institution like UNI,” said Steinke.
H-1360 was defeated 29-69, with two absences. See the separate article for a complete list of those voting for and against the amendment.