Democratic candidates focus on state funding of education

Greg Zwiers

Monica Vernon, running mate of gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch, said education is a huge topic for their campaign at a fundraiser for State Senator Herman Quirmbach on July 26.

Vernon said the tuition freeze has been important, but more needs to be done to make college affordable for students.

“It think it’s extremely important that college be affordable and that students come out and aren’t so handicapped by huge, huge debt for so long,” Vernon said.

Quirmbach said that the debt many students are accruing is “crushing in a lot of cases” and that the tuition freeze has been helpful, but he wants to see more state funding for universities.

He said a major goal of the next legislative term should be getting state funding of universities to pre-recession levels.

“We are still about $100 million below where we were in 2009 in state support,” Quirmbach said. “One of my top priorities is to get the state funding at least back up to the level it was before the great recession.”

Even though the tuition freeze has been only on in-state tuition, Quirmbach said that without the state funding that made it possible, all students’ tuition would have risen by more than it has.

Vernon and Quirmbach both want to invest in university programs that can translate into jobs and production outside of the university.

“I talked a lot during my congressional campaign about taking products that were developed at the universities and getting them out to market and getting them to the production floor,” Vernon said. 

Vernon said a lot of great things are invented at Iowa State and the state government should help share the products and research coming out of the university with the state and the world.

Quirmbach said the state needs to continue investment in the ISU Research Park because companies that have started there have created between 3,000 and 4,000 new jobs in Iowa.

“The state has been funding some of the overhead there and that has been a fantastic success story,” Quirmbach said.

Quirmbach said he wants to see more funding from the preschool level all the way up to post secondary education. Some type of education beyond high school is necessary in today’s job market.

Vernon said there should be a way for every Iowan to get a high school diploma and that some post secondary education beyond high school — whether it is a one year training program or graduate studies — is very important.

“That’s a huge thing for us and so we want to work with the private schools, the public universities as well as the community colleges,” Vernon said.

The state is investing $40 million this year in community college job training programs that benefit not only recent high school graduates but also people who may have been laid off and need some education to get back into the job market.

Quirmbach said he would also like to see Iowa State do more to teach students about financial literacy such as what paying back their loans will look like on a monthly basis.

“We’re doing a lot here to help businesses grow and to help create the jobs that we want students to have, and giving them the education along the way as well,” Quirmbach said.

Vernon said she and Hatch believe economic development happens “from the community up” and that education plays an important role in that.