Iowa House Republicans proposed a freeze in increased funding and tuition rates for Iowa’s three public universities for the 2022 fiscal year.
House Republican lawmakers argued that the three universities — Iowa State, University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa — shouldn’t need to receive additional funding due to the collective $240 million they have received in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
This puts House Republicans at odds with Senate Republicans, who proposed an additional $8.2 million in funding to be divided equally among the universities to make up for an $8 million budget cut in the 2021 fiscal year.
Gov. Kim Reynolds supports a $15 million budget increase, a number Iowa House Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-District 45) supports.
“I will propose an amendment to the budget for an additional $15 million for the regents. The regents have lost revenue due to decreased student tuition and they have had additional expenses as have more groups due to COVID-19,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.
The three universities announced in February that the pandemic has cost them $185 million collectively. Of the federal relief money, an additional $45 million was dispersed in student aid.
According to the Des Moines Register, Rep. David Kerr, R-Morning Sun, argued that the schools shouldn’t have to worry about cutting programs or staff.
“I have asked a couple of students and they have been opposed to this proposal,” Wessel-Kroeschell said in regard to student opposition toward the freeze. “Mostly, they can see that without adequate funding the quality of the institution will go down."
Of all the various proposals, all of them fall short of the near $30 million in additional funding the board of regents has requested.
Some Iowa Democrats feel the proposed freeze is related to other recent Republican legislation that has been criticized for punitively targeting universities regarding free speech and “cancel culture.”
Kerr said the legislature had “various reasons” for supporting the proposed legislation. Along with Kerr, according to an article from the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Speaker of the House Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said in an article that the proposed freeze was an attempt to get university spending better under control.
“I don't believe there is a cancel culture,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “Just because I disagree with you does not mean your culture is canceled. There is a mix of cultures and political opinions on all of our campuses. We must be respectful of all.”