Iowa universities to address student debt through financial literacy requirements

People walk along the sidewalk by Madison Street on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, Apri
People walk along the sidewalk by Madison Street on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The Iowa Senate last week passed a bill mandating regent universities address student debt through explicit and specific financial literacy requirements.

What: Senate File 2361 requires students enrolled at a regent university who will graduate on or after July 1, 2019, to complete a financial literacy course from the institution. It also requires the universities to develop policies on providing students information about their declared major’s employment rate, post-graduation placement rate, starting salary and average student debt; and it mandates universities craft policies enabling students to graduate in three years.

Vote: The measure, after a spirited debate, passed 39-10.

Why: Lawmakers who spoke in support said not enough is being done at the public universities to curtail debt and increase awareness of how student manage money.

Why not: Opponents said all three universities have financial literacy initiatives, career counseling and financial counselors. The Board of Regents in the fall debuted a systemwide inaugural financial literacy program requiring students to complete an online course. It also provides students with information about mentors and campus resources.

Voices in favor: “While individual parts of this bill were already being implementing at one or more of the regent universities, none of the schools were fully implementing the full gamut,” Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said.

“If someone can graduate in three years instead of four, they‘re going to save a lot of money,” Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny said.

Voices against:

“I frankly find it inappropriate that the Legislature should attempt to micromanage curriculum matters,” Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames said.


“One of the things we’re good at is pointing to what other people should do,” Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City said. “But what is our commitment to affordability? We have done a pretty sad job, given the budget crisis here, in keeping up with our commitment.”

What’s next: The bill heads to the Iowa House.

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