Students from Iowa’s regents universities lobby at Iowa Capitol


A crowd gathers to listen to a speaker on Regents Day, at the State capitol in Des Moines.

Paige Godden

About 150 students and 20 student organizations crowded the Iowa Capitol for the annual Regents Day on the Hill on Monday.

Most of the students were lobbying against proposed budget cuts.

Emily Hansen and Brenna Bush, executive board members for Dance Marathon at the University of Northern Iowa, said they were there to show the legislators that the universities give back to the communities.

UNI has never hosted a Dance Marathon. “We had a friend that was diagnosed with leukemia,” Bush said. “That’s what got us started.”

“We want it to be the biggest first year of Dance Marathon ever. We’re not trying to put a monetary amount on it,” Hansen said.

Anastasia Bodnar and Allen Shue of Iowa State’s Graduate and Professional Student Senate said cuts are affecting graduate students.

“In general [the Graduate and Professional Student Senate] as a body doesn’t have an opinion,” Bodnar said. “One way or another, funding cuts decreases the availability of assistantships to grad students.”

Shue said students might start looking at other schools.

“There is one big problem in the physics department. They don’t have enough people to teach classes, so they expect grad students to do it,” Shue said.

Shue said teacher’s assistants in physics are taking on twice their normal course loads.

The University of Northern Iowa’s Director of Forensics Katherine Lavelle, along with graduate students Al Hiland from the debate team and Yaw Kyrfmateng from the speech team, were lobbying against the cuts.

Kyrfmateng qualified for five events in the National Forensics Speech Competition.

Hiland qualified for the national debate team. He is the first student to qualify since 2007 and the 23rd person to do so in 63 years from UNI.

Meredith Place and Katherine Valde from the University of Iowa Democrats were also lobbying against cuts.

“We’re against [the budget cuts] for the obvious reasons,” Place said.

Place said the University of Iowa Democrats are concerned about what’s going to happen to the university in the future.

“Women’s studies has already had to merge, and we’re against bigger class sizes and raising tuition,” Place said.

Place said the University of Iowa ranks seventh in the nation for higher education debt amongst graduates and second in student debt.

Place and Valde both said they work part-time jobs while trying to maintain grades and balancing extracurricular activities.

“We’re supposed to be about quality and affordability. We don’t want this passed on to future classes,” Place said.

Jason Wiltfang from the University of Iowa Graduate and Professional Society said the group was lobbying against the cuts.

“At this point in time, increases aren’t an option. Students are facing a substantial amount of debt … Students are forced to decide if they can pay off those debts in Iowa or if they have to go elsewhere,” Wiltfang said.

Jared Knight, who is running for ISU student body vice president, said he is against budget cuts.

“Iowa State is a land-grant institution. When you cut state funding, it is no longer a state university. It’s supposed to be an education that is more affordable to students,” Knight said.

Knight said some people at the Regents Day on the Hill event were saying money needs to be spent more efficiently, but he said any more cuts will impact the classroom.

ISU sophomore in electrical engineering Chris Stolte said he is from Minnesota and has had a rough experience as it is.

“I’m already $20,000 to $30,000 in debt. It’s only going to keep going up,” Stolte said.

Kelly Hendrichs, also from Minnesota, said she was attracted to Iowa State because, “It’s where everyone told me to go. Engineering? Go to Iowa State.”

Zach Boss, of the Iowa State Republicans, said he wasn’t lobbying against the university, but to bring awareness to where the money is going.

When asked for specific examples, he pointed to a sign and said, “There. There is an example.”

The sign said $46,200 was spent to buy 11 solar trash compactors.

Greta Johnson, a graduate student at UNI and a member of the Board of Regents, said the Board of Regents was put in place for a reason.

“The Regents being micromanaged is not what government is meant for,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she attended the Day on the Hill events to support the students and to interact with all three schools.

David Miles, president of the Board of Regents, said he understood what the ISU Republicans were saying.

“We have continued to cut our operations … We know we need to be more efficient, but there is a certain point where you can’t do more with less,” Miles said.