Budget cuts shift education costs from state to students, could result in faculty layoffs

Information from 2010-2011 Iowa State Factbook

Graphic: Matt Wettengel/Iowa State Daily

Information from 2010-2011 Iowa State Factbook

Addie Olson

A budget bill proposed by the Iowa House Republicans would shift the cost of education from the state to the students and result in several faculty and staff layoffs.

The bill would bring severe cuts to Iowa’s three regent schools, reducing Iowa State’s operating appropriations by 9.1 percent. This is even larger than the 7.7 percent cut proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad. 

The impact would be felt not only by students and staff, but by the Ames community as a whole.

“If you reduce state spending, you immediately have to lay people off,” said David Swenson, associate scientist in economics. “They aren’t making incomes and you’re going to get a ripple effect because they’re not able to buy goods and services.”

This leads to a shift in the overall spending patterns within a region. With efficiency efforts that have been made since 2009, Iowa State already reduced its workforce by eliminating staff positions and laying off employees throughout the university. 

In addition to creating unemployment, the cuts would put an even larger financial burden on ISU students and their families. 

“The secondary economic impact is that it makes the college less able to educate young men and women, and it takes them longer to get through college,” Swenson said. “It increases their personal costs, and it increases their family costs of going to college.”

Tuition increases for next year have already been proposed. Iowa State students could be seeing a 5 percent hike in tuition for Iowa residents and a 3.5 percent hike for out-of-staters. This renders $306 more for resident undergrads and $612 more for non-residents undergrads each year.

The Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the proposed tuition increases later this month, but John McCarroll, executive director of university relations, recognizes that nothing is finalized yet.

“We certainly understand that we are looking at the probability of some kind of cut in our appropriation compared to the year we’re in now, but we don’t know that for sure because nothing has received final approval,” McCarroll said. “Certainly the leadership of the university has started the budget preparation process.”

The House of Representative’s bill will have to make it through the Democratic Senate before it seeks Branstad’s approval.

One thing is certain, the blow education receives each time a budget is introduced is nothing new to Iowans. 

“The state support for higher education has gone down consistently over the past 10 years,” Swenson said. “It’s part of a long-term trend of the state shifting away from education costs and shifting those costs more to families and students.”

It is undeniable that the implications of cuts from a new state budget will extend far beyond impacting those affiliated with the university. By creating unemployment and increasing costs for students, the economy as a whole will shrink, and it will put more pressure on those wishing to receive a higher education.