'No way' Iowans can afford 7 percent tuition increase, Reynolds says

Regents need to 'take a look at what's manageable'

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DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday joined a chorus of Iowans urging the state Board of Regents to take a cautious approach to raising yearly tuition for students enrolled at the three state universities.

A regent panel has received proposals from presidents of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa to make up for declining state appropriations by raising undergraduate tuition by as much as 41 percent over the next five years, but the governor balked at the idea during her weekly news conference.

“That is too much,” Reynolds told reporters. “There is no way that Iowa families could afford a 7 percent increase over five years.”

The governor did not say if she supported raising tuition and, if so, what level she would recommend, telling reporters instead that she is encouraging the regents to “take a look at what’s manageable and keep in the forefront doing everything we can do to keep higher education costs, postsecondary costs down.” She pointed to past efforts that froze tuition at state universities for two and a half years.

This week, UI President Bruce Harreld offered a multiyear plan that would increase resident undergrad rates 7.08 percent each year through 2022 — raising rates from $7,486 this fall to $10,537. The five-year plan also includes an annual 2.08 percent bump for non-resident undergrads — increasing this year’s $29,130 to $32,288 by 2022. The proposed UI tuition increases also would extend to graduate students and those in costlier programs like medicine, engineering, dentistry and business.

Last week, UNI and ISU officials presented their plans to the task force. ISU pitched a similar rate plan and UNI proposed a smaller 2.5 annualized bump for resident undergrads, provided the Legislature also appropriated enough money.

The regents would have to approve any tuition increases annually, making the university plans only suggestions. But if regents approve the proposed increases, they would usher in the first significant split in basic resident undergrad rates between the three public universities.

While the UI and ISU would push resident undergrad costs to around $10,500, UNI’s comparable rate would rise more slowly to $8,237 by 2022.

“They’re going to work through the process,” Reynolds said of the regents’ future deliberations. “The regents will take a look at what’s possible and what’s the right amount moving forward. Their work is just getting started and I’m going to let them work through the process.”

On other topics, Reynolds:

— Acknowledged Iowa is among the states being considered as a possible site for a joint venture by Japanese automakers Toyota and Mazda to build a $1.6 billion U.S. assembly plant that would create up to 4,000 jobs, but declined to divulge any additional details. “We don’t want to let other states to know what we’re doing,” she said, naming as assets Iowa’s central location, talented workforce, infrastructure, certified industrial sites and low electric rates.

— Said state officials are monitoring dry weather conditions that continue to negatively impact Iowa’s corn and soybean crops as harvest approaches. A report issued Monday showed 3 percent of Iowa’s corn crop was in very poor condition and 9 percent poor, while 81 percent was still rated in fair to good condition and 9 percent excellent. Similar conditions were reported for Iowa’s soybean acres.

— Called violence associated with a deadly white supremacy protest in Charlottesville, Va., last week “unconscionable” and said she has no information that similar events have been planned in Iowa. “This racist bigotry is not who we are as Americans. We’ve got to come together and really fight for what unites us,” Reynolds said when asked to comment on the situation in Virginia. “It’s unacceptable. It can’t be tolerated. There is absolutely no place for the hatred that we saw there.”

— Said she called Christina Andersen, the graphic designer who created the options for the new Iowa Department of Transportation license places, to thank her for her work in the face of negative social media responses to the three designs that are in the running to become the new state license plate. “We need to treat everybody with respect and dignity. It’s OK to have an opinion, but it’s not OK to make them personal,” the governor said. Much of the criticism, Reynolds said, related to design limitations relating to law enforcement and cost issues associated with producing a new license plate that were beyond the designer’s control.

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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