Editorial: Students should take advantage of Regents feedback opportunity

Editorial Board

The Iowa Board of Regents took another step toward eliminating tuition set-asides Friday. They closed out the week with an announcement that, from now until Oct. 17, they will accept feedback from anyone willing to give it on how best to move from setting aside the tuition of some students so others can receive financial aid, to a system where financial aid does not come from a student’s classmates.

This latest action is the most recent revelation of the Regents taking a careful, considered approach to eliminating the set-asides policy that redirects some 22 percent of undergraduate tuition at Iowa State to other students. It seems that the Regents are acting very methodically, with all their proverbial ducks in a proverbial row.

After the practice gained notoriety (or possibly infamy) in March and April, the Regents were quick to vote against continuing it at their meeting in June, and last month received from their Student Financial Aid Committee a set of proposals to replace revenue from set-asides with other sources of funding. One of the results of the Regents’ meeting last month meeting included plans to request $39.5 million from the state Legislature in January to begin that transition.

Now, they want you.

The Iowa Board of Regents and its members are not exempt from a rule that administrators and other people who are in positions of power. That rule is those who can make important decisions are often viewed as inaccessible or uninterested in what ordinary people have to say, even though those ordinary people — in this case, students, faculty, staff and other Iowans who take an interest in higher education and its uses — confront policy and bureaucracy day after day.

In short, the Regents requested student insight into the resolution of an issue that inherently affects students. Their efforts show everyone within the community of regent universities in addition to the people of the state of Iowa, is a stakeholder in university policy.

This solicitation from the Regents presents students with a unique opportunity to make their voices heard on the issue. Not only do they have a chance to make their more opinionated voices heard; they now have a golden opportunity to offer constructive suggestions about what shape a new scholarship program should look like and how it should be implemented.

The Student Financial Aid Committee, however, will review feedback before they add it to the report they will give the whole Board of Regents at the meeting Oct. 24 to 25. Anyone offering his or her opinion, therefore, has a responsibility to be rational and considered — much like the Board’s efforts to date on students’ behalf.