Iowa Student Action calls for tuition freeze at Board of Regents meeting


The Iowa Student Action Group protest tuition and student debt with chants and signs on campus Oct. 15. 

Jacob Smith

Iowa Student Action has been present on campus and throughout the state championing for change when it comes to tuition and student debt.

The Iowa Board of Regents hosted a meeting Feb. 5, which was livestreamed on the IowaRegents YouTube channel from its office in Urbandale, Iowa.

The meeting, however, was cut short as a group identifying themselves as Iowa Student Action began speaking.

“We are from Iowa Student Action,” an unidentified individual offscreen said. “We are a group of a movement of students across Iowa who know that education is a human right. Everyone of—”

The live stream then was silenced and displayed a screen that said: “Meeting will resume shortly.”

Alex Rodriguez, sophomore in political science, is a member of Iowa Student Action and was one of the students that traveled to the Board’s meeting that day.

“Basically, [Iowa Student Action] is a national grassroots organization of students and specifically working right now for the tuition freeze because of the Multi-Year Tuition Model and its effect on campuses across the state,” Rodriguez said.

In 2018, the Board approved the Multi-Year Tuition Model, guaranteeing tuition increases of 3 to 5 percent every year for the next five years at Iowa State University and University of Iowa.

“A tuition freeze would just look like […] we would literally just put a cap on the tuition, while the Multi-Year Tuition Model is discussed further because, as I understand it, it’s at the discretion of the university to raise prices, […] but it gives students a heads up, like, ‘Hey, the tuition, while you attend any university in the state, will be increasing,’” Rodriguez said. “And like I said, it can be at any price the university decides.”

A tuition freeze isn’t the end goal of Iowa Student Action, though, Rodriguez said.

“So really, what the protest is about is asking the Board of Regents to freeze tuition until we can push for tuition-free colleges, which is the overall mission of Student Action,” Rodriguez said.

Currently, Student Action is building bases in eight states: California, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, according to the Student Action website.

The meeting was at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday and went throughout the afternoon, a common time for students to have class.

“I actually did miss one of my classes,” Rodriguez said. “This isn’t the first time I had to miss class having to talk to someone in authority about the issues that affect me personally or people that I know.”

Rodriguez said they didn’t reach out to the professor about missing class due to previous rejection.

“And I think that’s why I didn’t reach out to professors, if I’m honest, about when I have to miss […] because one, I have encountered professors who don’t care,” Rodriguez said. “They don’t see the reason why I would choose to attend something like a Board of Regents meeting or attend more protests regarding a recent event.”

Previously, Rodriguez has protested with Students Against Racism, a group formed in the fall of 2019 addressing recent instances of discrimination on Iowa State’s campus.

This can draw students’ attention away from classes, impacting their education, Rodriguez said. 

“Of course it takes away from not only my class time having to deal with these things, but also it takes a lot of mental toll when it comes to actual instances of racism because number one, I’m always thinking, ‘Well, I’m not safe on campus,’” Rodriguez said.