Iowa is working


The Iowa Capitol In Des Moines

As part of the 2014 Condition of the State Address, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad voiced his support for keeping tuition costs affordable for students.

Branstad delivered this speech to the Iowa Legislature at the Statehouse in Des Moines on Tuesday.

Similar to the State of Union Address, the governor delivered his speech outlining his priorities for the 2014 legislative session.

Branstad spent little time discussing the recent tuition freeze for Iowa regent universities. He told Iowa Legislatures the importance of keeping college costs and accruing college debts low for students.

The requested increase will allow Iowa State University to freeze resident undergraduate tuition for a second consecutive year. President Steven Leath released his expression of gratitude in response to the governor’s support, said, “Gov. Branstad’s support will allow Iowa State to remain affordable, accessible and attractive to a growing number of Iowa undergraduates.”

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said the tuition freeze is not a done deal until both the house and the senate agree on the appropriations budget, but the governor’s support is a major hurdle.

“This is a very good day for the universities and I am really quite pleased with the governor’s committing to support the proposal,” Quirmbach said.

ISU Government of Student Body President Spencer Hughes said he wants students to know this step is a big deal.

“It’s great to see the support of not only the governor, but the Board of Regents, the legislature, has shown for higher education,” Hughes said. “If [the budget] goes through, and I anticipate that it will, that means tuition would be the same rate for three consecutive years, which is pretty much unheard of.”

Quirmbach said the appropriations budget, which deals with the education budget, has joint subcommittees between the house and senate. Both must agree on the budget and Gov. Branstad then has to sign in order for the regent-proposed four-percent increase in appropriations budget to pass.

The first meeting for the house and senate is Jan. 16 at 11 a.m., which will be more of an introductory session, Quirmbach said. Next week, at the earliest, they will schedule individual budget meetings with community colleges, private schools and regent universities, where individual specifics will be presented.

Quirmbach wasn’t sure when the actual vote will take place, but said, “I can pretty much guarantee that the tuition freeze, the money the regents want to avoid a tuition increase for instate undergraduates, that the money will be in the senate version [of the budget].”

The Iowa Board of Regents approved a tuition freeze for the 2014-2015 academic year in December, pending approval from the state legislature.

“There is a real problem with affordability now where tuition keeps increasing and it’s making it difficult for some students to continue their education,” said political science professor Steffen Schmidt.

In Branstad’s address to the state legislature, he submitted another budget proposal for a second tuition freeze for the three regent universities.

Schmidt said he is hopeful that the state legislature will freeze college tuition for a second year.

The Iowa Legislature is “by and large, sympathetic,” to the struggles college students face, Schmidt said.

Speaking to the legislature about the success of the past year, he made points on how he plans to make this year’s session just as prosperous and triumphant.

Following the theme of “Iowa is working,” he stressed his desire to give all Iowans the opportunity to achieve the “Iowa dream.” Through increased amounts of jobs, higher efforts in quality education and connecting rural Iowa with broadband technology, that dream can be achieved, Branstad said.