Helping Iowa students and their families meet the costs of attending our three public universities by freezing tuition for another year should be a goal for state leaders in 2014.
The Board of Regents earlier this year proposed a second consecutive one-year tuition freeze for Iowa undergraduate students at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa in exchange for a 4 percent (or about $20 million) increase in state funding.
In a meeting with the Regents last month, Gov. Terry Branstad said he was supportive of the idea but wouldn't commit to anything until he first sees December's revenue estimate and funding requests from other state agencies.
In our view, barring an unexpected big drop in the revenue estimate next month, the 4 percent appropriation and tuition freeze should get done, regardless of other funding requests.
It's about priorities.
As lawmakers made property tax reform and education reform a funding priority this year, the Legislature next year should find a way to hold the line on tuition costs at Regent institutions for in-state undergraduate students and their families for another year.
In our view, promising to freeze tuition in exchange for a reasonable increase in funding demonstrates a good-faith pledge by the universities to contain costs.
Our state's economy is strong and growing, we have a large budget surplus. This affordable investment in our Regent institutions through which the state would strengthen our universities and assist our students and their families in affording them would be good for Iowa and for Iowans, in both the short- and long-term.
This year marked the first time in more than 30 years tuition did not go up for Iowa undergraduate students at the three state universities. We believe Iowa students and their families deserve another year of relief.
We understand the Legislature can't and shouldn't give everyone everything they want next year, but this funding request is one we urge lawmakers put near the top of their list.