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IOWA CITY — The state education budget lawmakers finalized early Wednesday includes a fraction of the $22.1 million increase Iowa’s public universities sought for the upcoming budget year.
The education appropriations bill offers a $6.2 million increase for the Board of Regents, just over a quarter of the increase it requested and called essential in campus efforts to provide “high-quality public education, cutting-edge research, and needed public services.”
Of the Legislature’s $6.2 million increase, $5.5 million was designated for general university appropriations — to be divided by the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.
“The Board of Regents is very appreciative of the appropriations that we continue to receive for Iowa’s public universities,” Board President Michael Richards said Wednesday in a statement provided to The Gazette. “We have had a great partnership with the state for more than a century, and it continues to provide significant resources to our institutions.
“While it is unfortunate that we could not receive a general university increase equal to the $12.2 million that Gov. Reynolds had in her FY23 budget proposal, we are still thankful that the state continues to recognize that our universities are key drivers of the state economy and receive significant funding.”
What was asked
The regents in September requested $15 million more in general education dollars for its public universities — proposing a split of $4 million to UNI, $4 million to the UI, and $7 million to Iowa State.
Additionally, the UI asked for $3 million for its Oakdale campus, State Hygienic Lab, Family Practice Program, and Iowa Flood Center.
The Family Practice Program -- with an additional $500,000, bringing its total budget to $2.2 million -- was the only one of those UI-based special units to receive more funding.
The Board of Regents, in its September request, had said that money was necessary to maintain “community-based family medicine residency programs across Iowa.”
“The program has been instrumental for the state of Iowa to promote primary health care for all Iowans, particularly in rural Iowa,” according to the regents’ request. “An increase in financial support is now more important than ever as the future sustainability of these programs is in jeopardy due to rising costs.”
The state denied more money for the Oakdale Campus, with a budget of $2.1 million; the Iowa Flood Center, with a budget of $1.2 million; and the State Hygienic Lab, which has a $4.8 million budget and that needs $1 million more to “be prepared to rapidly respond to a variety of threats against both human and environmental health,” according to the budget request.
“The onset of the pandemic and the need to retain staff and recruit additional talented analysts was never more apparent than throughout this pandemic when over 1 million COVID-19 specimens were tested,” according to the board’s fall request.
“Salary increases are critical as the statistics show that the public health lab work force is aging and retiring with fewer new professionals seeking public health labs as a place of employment.”
$662.8 million in ’23
The final education appropriations package ups the Legislature’s total Board of Regents appropriations from $616.6 million in the current budget year to $622.8 million next year — below the requested $638.6 million hope.
It increases the universities’ general education appropriations from $486 million to $491.5 million, which is below the $493 million at the start of fiscal 2020 — before COVID compelled lawmakers to cut $8 million in the middle of that year.
The state denied the universities any general education funding increase last year, despite a regent request for an $18 million bump — plus restoration of the $8 million cut.
The budget includes a $150,000 increase for Iowa State’s Cooperative Extension Service; a $300,000 increase for the Iowa School for the Deaf; and a $114,000 increase for the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School.
New funding idea
Earlier this session, the Iowa House education subcommittee advanced an education funding bill that proposed a new method for funding Iowa’s public universities, compelling them to compete for state dollars by enrolling students into high-demand majors aimed at filling Iowa jobs.
Instead of just allocating the regents more general education appropriations, the bill would have put $12 million into a new “Iowa Workforce Grant and Incentive Program” housed within the Department of Education’s Iowa College Aid program.
Iowa College Aid would have distributed the money through two-year scholarships to students who qualified by already being on a path toward a high-demand career as defined by Iowa Workforce Development — like teaching, engineering, or nursing.
Although that proposed program didn’t make it into the final bill, Rep. David Kerr, R-Morning Sun, and chair of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, at the time pitched it as a “great recruiting tool.”
“They need students because the enrollments are decreasing,” he said.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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