This text was a speech delivered to Iowa lawmakers on Feb. 19, 2018.
Every fall, thousands of new students from all over Iowa, the United States and the globe begin their adventure at Iowa State University. They choose our beloved institution over thousands of other universities in the world. Currently, I serve as the Vice President of the Student Body at Iowa State University. Everyday, I represent the 36,321 students that have entrusted me to speak on their behalf.
Unfortunately, this task has become increasingly challenging in the current political climate. This year alone, through SF 2117, the legislature has proposed a cut of at least $8.1 million dollars to the Board of Regents budget. The quality of an Iowa State degree is among the best in the world. Accredited by the Association of American Universities, this puts Iowa State University head-to-head with Ivy League institutions such as Princeton and Harvard.
Regrettably, public higher education in Iowa is ensnared in a dangerous and unsustainable cycle. The Legislature cuts funding, forcing the university to propose tuition increases to the Board of Regents, which will, inevitably and by no fault of their own, place this immense burden on the backs of students and their families. Furthermore, House amendment H-8012 takes away the Board’s ability, the body that best understands the financial situations of its institutions, to decide where the cuts will be less harmful to students and their families. I believe that this decision is best made by those with a close relationship and intimate understanding of each university, not the opposite.
It seems to me that our state has reached a critical turning point when it comes to public higher education. Iowa State University, the first land grant university in the United States, should serve as a beacon of opportunity for students who are determined enough to pursue a higher education. As a land grant, our mission is to be the most affordable and accessible to Iowa’s students. We should strive to uphold this pledge because it is these same students that will contribute significantly to our state’s economy by becoming our local farmers, teachers, agronomists, engineers, veterinarians and neighbors.
I am speaking today to ask you to think long and hard about what our priorities are as a state. Past budget reductions are already taking their toll on students, their families, and, in turn, our state. Unfortunately, our university’s reputation and credibility are being threatened by this negligence. As Iowans, these cuts and their impact should concern us all. In fact, they should concern anyone, including and especially you: our legislators. We are asking for your support of higher education in our state; it is an investment in the future we want for generations to come, it is an investment in Iowa. We have heard the fiscal arguments, we have heard the political speeches, but this is about priorities; the time has come for higher education to once again be a priority in Iowa. The time has come for you to invest in us, the future of our state.