Government

Students: Fully fund regents schools to avoid mental health cuts

(Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau) Rachael Johnson, a Sioux City native, University of Northern Iowa student and the student representative on the state Board of Regents, speaks during a media conference Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines.
(Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau) Rachael Johnson, a Sioux City native, University of Northern Iowa student and the student representative on the state Board of Regents, speaks during a media conference Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines.

DES MOINES — Katie Evans said she knew one of the two fellow University of Northern Iowa students who during this past fall semester died of what family members said were suicides.

Josh Schoenfeld said during his four years at the University of Iowa he knew three fellow students who committed suicide.

Evans, Schoenfeld and other student leaders at Iowa’s public universities spoke Tuesday at a media conference at the Iowa Capitol to encourage the governor and state lawmakers to fully fund the universities’ budget request for the 2016-17 school year.

The student leaders said they are concerned mental health services on their campuses will remain inadequate under the current trend of state funding to the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

Daniel Breitbarth, student body president at Iowa State University, said students there must wait 30 days to meet with a mental health care staff member.

Liz Mills, the student body president at the University of Iowa, said students there are forced to wait three to four weeks.

“It truly saddens me to know that some students are not receiving the necessary care,” said Evans, the student body president at UNI. “The current mode of funding is not equipped to deal with the increasing needs for mental health (services).”

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The three universities have requested a total increase of more than $20 million for the coming school year: $8.2 million for Iowa State, $7.7 million for Northern Iowa and $4.5 million for Iowa.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of the entire regents funding request,” said Rachael Johnson, a Sioux City native, UNI student and the student representative on the state Board of Regents.

Gov. Terry Branstad’s budget proposal increased regents university funding by about $8 million, and Iowa House budget chairman Rep. Pat Grassley said he does not believe the full $20 million increase fits within his committee’s spending targets.

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