Governor Reynolds signed SF 2117 into law Wednesday which includes a mid-year budget cut to Iowa State and University of Iowa amounting to $10.9 million.
The final bill will cut a total of $35.5 million from the fiscal year 2018 state budget. The bill exempts the University of Northern Iowa from cuts.
Supporters of the exemption say that a large percentage of the University of Northern Iowa’s student population are in-state students so mid-year cuts would disproportionately harm Iowans.
This decision, however, has been met with criticism from some at Iowa State including Iowa State Provost Jonathan Wickert.
“Any decision to exempt UNI from the cuts would not reflect that Iowa State teaches more Iowans than any other regent university,” Wickert said during a Faculty Senate meeting.
These cuts will likely lead to increases in tuition, but there could be other consequences of the cuts as well.
“With the last two years seeing $11.5 million in cuts to Iowa State’s budget, these budget changes will cut to the bone,” Wickert said. “The possible implications of these cuts for Iowa State include faculty furloughs, canceled classes and discontinued student aid.”
Student Government President Cody West said his initial reaction to the cuts was confusion, since they had heard mixed news from people at the statehouse regarding whether there would be mid-year cuts.
“Definitely heartbreaking, and [I am] feeling especially bad for our new administration as they get settled into their roles as we’re missing folks like the chief of staff in the president’s office and having to navigate these budget cuts with a new leadership team," West said. "Definitely disappointing, I think the magnitude is what really scares us, especially this late in the school year.”
Members of Student Government — particularly those who are a part of the Legislative Ambassador program — made efforts down at the state to lobby for funding for higher education.
ISU Day at the Capitol gave administrators and students the opportunity to show legislators why they believe higher education benefits the state as a whole.
West expressed frustration that after these efforts, they did not see the results they wanted to see.
“I think if anything it just kind of shows us that we need to do more," West said, "And obviously, this does not at all lie within the amount of outreach that the students did, amount of contacting legislators, getting down there for things like ISU Day at the Capitol.
"I think we just need to take a bigger step back as a state and making sure that the student voice keeps being projected in a way that makes waves so we can show our legislators that are obviously very out of touch with the regent institutions.”
Ames Legislators have also spoken against the mid-year cuts.
Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said in a forum “I don’t know how, nearly three-quarters of the way through the fiscal year, the universities can be expected to come up with $11 million. It’s roughly a third of the budget cuts that were passed the other night even though the universities only represent about 6 or 7 percent of the overall state budget.”
Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen said in a statement to campus that the mid-year cuts have put Iowa State in “an especially difficult situation.”
In that same statement, President Wintersteen addressed the question of next years budget.
“Currently unknown are the FY19 state appropriations to the Board of Regents and the Regents’ decision on tuition rates for the 18-19 academic year. President Mike Richards has already indicated the Board will consider a rate increase,” Wintersteen said.
There will be a hearing on tuition rates for an April 11-12 Board of Regents meeting.
It is not clear exactly how much money will be cut from Iowa State as that decision lies with the Board of Regents.
If last year’s mid-year cuts are any indication, it could lead to projects being delayed and some faculty positions remaining empty.
State Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, defended the cuts during the same forum saying that they were necessary after lower than expected revenue growth and the cuts would not affect K-12 education and other essential state programs.
The cuts will also target the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services, something that led AFSCME Council 61 President, Danny Homan, to make a statement following the signing of the bill via press release.
AFSCME Council 61 represents over 40,000 public employees.
“The sad thing is everyday Iowans are going to pay the price for her irresponsibility," Homan said. "When we cut our regents by millions, students and their families see their debt increase. When we cut corrections by millions, safety in our prisons deteriorates. When we cut DHS by millions, kids in our foster care system suffer.
"Iowans should brace themselves for the impact of these cuts. Iowans deserve more competent leadership and they should demand it at the polls in November."
For the full statement and breakdown of the mid year cuts click here: