Education

Iowa Democrats visit UI to stress education funding on heels of U.S. News rankings drop

Party Chair Troy Price, House 73 candidate Jodi Clemens say cuts are hurting students

Iowa Democratic chair Troy Price (center) is flanked by University of Iowa students and Iowa House candidate Jodi Clemens as he speaks on the state's budget cuts to higher ed and increasing tuition during a press conference at the Iowa City Public Library on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. University of Iowa students James Pierce (far left), Joseph Feldmann (second from right) and Austin Wu also spoke about their concerns for higher education funding and student loan debt. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Democratic chair Troy Price (center) is flanked by University of Iowa students and Iowa House candidate Jodi Clemens as he speaks on the state's budget cuts to higher ed and increasing tuition during a press conference at the Iowa City Public Library on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. University of Iowa students James Pierce (far left), Joseph Feldmann (second from right) and Austin Wu also spoke about their concerns for higher education funding and student loan debt. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Iowa Democrats are spotlighting education spending cuts in recent years as they near Midterm elections.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price held the event in the Iowa City Public Library on Thursday as part of the “Reynolds Record: Education Cuts” tour to stump for Democrats. Price, along with University of Iowa students and House District 73 candidate Jodi Clemens, discussed education on the heels of U.S. News & World report rankings released earlier this week that showed the University of Iowa slipped from No. 31 to No. 38 among public universities.

“We have an opportunity this year to put our state on a better path, to once again go back to what Iowa stands for,” Price said. “Make sure that we elect Democrats, elect leaders, who are going to fight every single person in this state. To have people who are putting money into our education system.”

The Iowa Democratic Party blamed recent budget cuts for Iowa’s slip in the rankings. The state has cut $35 million in funding for the regent universities since 2017.

“Resources do matter, and without adequate resources from the state, we aren’t able to make the needed investments in student outcomes that would lead to higher rankings by U.S. News & World Report and other ranking organizations,” Harreld said in a statement previously provided to The Gazette. “Without increased commitment from our state government partners and increased tuition, it will be increasingly difficult to make the kinds of investments needed to improve student outcomes.”

Earlier this year, however, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation called Future Ready Iowa aimed at establishing apprenticeships and mentor and intern programs to prepare Iowa students for “high-demand career pathways.”

“Gov. Reynolds’ leadership has kept Iowa’s fiscal house in order — increase spending on K-12 education, community colleges, and she signed the Future Ready Iowa Act into law, which will invest in new workforce training and education programs to help Iowans young and old find a career right here in Iowa,” said Pat Garrett, Reynolds campaign spokesman, in a partial statement.

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As part of the event, University of Iowa students explained challenges of affording a college education. James Pierce, a senior who said he was raised by a single mom who struggled to afford his college after the 2008 financial crisis, said he had to work a full-time job for three years before starting school.

“Even then, when I finally started, I was still relying on Pell Grants and loans,” Pierce said. “There’s a direct correlation between the level of state funding for our public universities and the tuition that they charge going up and up forcing students like me to take out more and more loans.”

Clemens, who is facing Republican incumbent Rep. Bobby Kaufmann in the November election, said a lack of funding for education can affect rural Iowa communities, like her native West Branch, much more. Clemens and Kaufmann’s district covers eastern Johnson County, all of Cedar County and the city of Wilton in Muscatine County.

“Having the university so close is fantastic being able to have the access but you know it’s got to be affordable for them too because it can take people as long as a mortgage to pay off to pay off their education,” Clemens said. “And not every job that you’re coming out of college for is going to start off at the amount that you need to start paying off your debt.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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