Lack of interest dooms first tuition task force meeting

Lawmakers, governor's office among those invited to help shape plans

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The Iowa Board of Regents has canceled the first of four planned meetings for its new tuition task force — the one that was supposed to bring together legislative and economic representatives around the issue of university tuition.

Only three people were confirmed to present at the Thursday meeting — Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport and Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend.

“Unfortunately, we were not going to have a high enough turnout of presenters to hold the July 27 meeting,” said a statement from Regent Larry McKibben, who is chairing the task force.

Former regents President Bruce Rastetter introduced the idea of a tuition task force in April, and the board earlier this month firmed up plans for four meetings. The goal is to examine “core issues and strategies central to the process of setting tuition.”

Board and university leaders also say they hope to use the process to map out plans for all three regent schools to avoid last-minute tuition hikes to make up for lacking appropriations from the Legislature.

The task force had invited stakeholders from the governor’s office, the Legislature, Legislative Services Agency and the Department of Management to participate in the first meeting. The lack of interest potentially hamstrings the group’s ability to fulfill the part of its mission of involving lawmakers.

The task force still has three other meetings on the calendar, all in August — at the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. At those meetings, administrators are scheduled to present five-year tuition proposals.

Legislative and economic representatives are being encouraged to attend one of those meetings or submit feedback in writing directly to the task force, board spokesman Josh Lehman said.

In the last legislative session earlier this year, lawmakers cut more than $30 million in general education funding for the regent universities — a takeback from the last budget year that had already been approved, and a reduction in the current budget year.

In response, he board in June approved additional tuition increases that bring rates 5 percent above last fall for resident undergraduate students on all three campuses.

Meeting schedule:

Aug. 7 on the UNI campus in the Slife Ballroom

10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — University of Northern Iowa 5-year tuition presentation

Noon to 1 p.m. — Listening session

Aug. 9 on the ISU campus in room 240 in the Scheman Building

10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — Iowa State University 5-year tuition presentation

Noon to 1:p.m. — Listening session

Aug. 14 on the UI campus in the Kollros Auditorium in Biology Building East

10:30 to 11:30 a.m. — University of Iowa 5-year tuition presentation

Noon to 1 p.m. — Listening session

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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