Today students at Iowa’s public universities head back to class with massive tuition increases hanging over their heads. Governor Reynolds said last week that there is “no way” Iowa families could afford those hikes.
However, she failed to take responsibility for the fact that those hikes are a direct result of her budget cuts. She also failed to use her power and influence as governor to offer solutions for the crisis.
Tuition Hikes and the Reynolds Budget
The Iowa tuition task force was called this summer specifically because Reynolds and GOP lawmakers slashed 30 million dollars from the higher education budget.
The Quad City Times blasted Reynolds in a recent editorial for her allegiance to corporate tax cuts over education:
“Iowa’s regents universities didn’t create this mess. They’re victims of a state that simply doesn’t value education anymore. Or, at least, one that places it below tax cuts for big business on the list of priorities. In 2013, then Lt. Gov. Reynolds supported the largest tax cuts in state history, which are now directly responsible for incessant budgetary shortfalls.”
The Storm Lake Times also said that the tuition increases are:
“completely the fault of mismanagement and bad policy by Gov. Terry Branstad, the Iowa Legislature and the regents he appointed. Branstad’s successor, Gov. Kim Reynolds, is content to let the process work out with the regents as the entire state budget is in shambles.”
Taking money from public education has been a pattern of the Branstad-Reynolds Administration since passing large commercial property tax cuts in 2013 that have resulted in lower-than-predicted state revenues.
In 2014, Branstad vetoed funding for programs at state universities arguing he needed to take action to help ensure the state’s budget remained solid. The cuts included tens of millions of dollars in funding to state university agriculture, science, manufacturing, and Biosystems programs.
In 2015, the administration cut higher education funding by vetoing $2.5 million for community colleges, $2.9 million for the University of Iowa, $2.3 million for Iowa State University, and $1.1 million for the University of Northern Iowa.
In June, Reynolds said she would not rule out even greater cuts to higher education in the next budget year.
In her comments about the tuition hikes, Reynolds did not offer any solutions or actions that might solve the crisis. Instead, she passed the responsibility off to others.
From the Des Moines Register:
“There is no way that Iowa families could afford a 7 percent increase over five years,” she said. “So I would encourage the Regents to … take a look at what’s manageable and keep in the forefront doing everything we can to keep higher education, post-secondary education costs down.”
Although Reynolds criticized the increases, she was noncommittal about what the Regents institutions should expect from the state during the next budget cycle.
“The Legislature is going to do what the Legislature is going to do,” she said. “We’ll work closely with them. We’ll put our budget together and they’ll put theirs together.”
“As the Governor, Kim Reynolds has the power to veto legislation and use her bully pulpit to guide political conversations, especially when her party is in the majority. She certainly has the power to prevent these tuition hikes or at least make a difference in the debate. To suggest otherwise is, frankly, ridiculous,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price.