At the beginning of last year, the University of Iowa came under fire for its decision to withdraw scholarships from nearly 2,500 students. The cuts would have saved the university $4.3 million, but after student lawsuits and backlash from lawmakers, UI reinstated the scholarships.
While UI’s initial decision to rescind scholarships was wrong, it certainly was not made lightly. Statewide de-appropriations last year took $8 million from both the University of Iowa and Iowa State, and $2 million from the University of Northern Iowa. Since then, the state’s public universities have struggled to make some tough decisions. Tuition hikes burden low-income and first-generation students, and more may be on the horizon. Faculty have had to grapple with a decline in tenured positions, potentially decreasing the quality of education on campus.
The Daily Iowan Editorial Board recognizes that a declining state revenue presents immense challenges. But as the Iowa legislative session gets underway, we implore the state legislature to seek innovative measures to increase public funding for higher education.
According to the Pew Research Center, workers with at least a bachelor's degree earn $17,500 more annually than workers with just a high-school diploma. This generates obvious benefits for taxpayers; highly educated people contribute more in taxes and require less from social support programs. They are better equipped for the workforce to become our future politicians, entrepreneurs, school teachers and doctors. There is no doubt that further cuts to higher education will not generate their own costs.
Around the country, states facing revenue shortfalls have slashed higher education funding at a great price to students and their families. In these uncertain financial times, our country stands at the precipice of recommitting to affordable education and development of skilled workers, or letting college become a path for just a lucky few. As the Iowa legislature takes on the difficult task of balancing our state’s budget, they must recognize that investing in public higher education is investing in our state’s future.