DES MOINES – Democrats who control the Iowa Senate said Friday they will seek to continue a tuition freeze at Iowa’s three regent universities for a second straight year.
Members of the Democratic Party’s 26-person majority in the Senate emerged from a meeting in Cedar Rapids saying that controlling community college tuition also will be key to bipartisan efforts to make higher education more affordable and to support and expand Iowa’s middle class during the upcoming 2014 legislative session.
“Freezing tuition by controlling costs and increasing state investment is much better than asking struggling families to take out even more student loans,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
“During the recession, tuition costs and student debt both skyrocketed while the state of Iowa’s investment fell by almost 25 percent,” he added. “A better balance is needed in order to keep college affordable for Iowa families.”
For the first time in more than 30 years, tuition did not increase this fall for Iowa undergraduate students attending the University of Iowa in Iowa City, the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, and Iowa State University in Ames. Meanwhile, average tuition and fees at Iowa community college increased by 2.8 percent this fall.
Majority Senate Democrats noted that the Iowa Board of Regents have indicated that the tuition freeze could continue if state support increased significantly. They said they support the regents in that effort, but noted any funding commitment would require bipartisan support and they have not heard a position yet from majority Republicans in the Iowa House or GOP Gov. Terry Branstad.
In response, Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said: “The governor orchestrated the state’s first tuition freeze in 30 years this year. The governor will put together a budget that balances and is sustainable over the next five years, and will release his budget next January, when available resources are better known.”
In their statement, Democrats said the average graduate from these public universities enters the job market with almost $27,000 in student loan debt, an amount that has increased by 57 percent in just the last 10 years – an escalating cost that concerns them.
“For the last three years, Senate Democrats have led the push to invest more in our state universities and community colleges,” said Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge. “I hope we can again reach a compromise with House Republicans and Governor Branstad, one that will allow us to extend the tuition freeze and to keep our community colleges affordable.”
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