Corbett plans to abolish Board of Regents if elected


Ron Corbett

Nik Heftman

During a visit at the Iowa State Fair, Iowa GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Corbett said that he would eliminate the Board of Regents and replace it with an independent board of trustees for each university.

Corbett – current mayor of Cedar Rapids – made the statement days after Iowa’s public universities revealed five-year tuition proposals pitching 7 percent increases through 2022.

The tuition hikes followed a proposal from Iowa legislators in April that pulled $20 million in funding for education.

“There are a lot of layers of government, that over time became bigger and bigger,” Corbett said. “Eliminating the Board of Regents is going to reduce the need to increase the tuition to what the presidents are recommending at this point in time.”

The state’s Board of Regents was composed in 1909. The board is a nine member governing body that oversees the state’s three public universities. It also oversees the Iowa School for the Deaf and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School.

Corbett cited a 1.8 percent tuition raise made at the University of Tennessee in June – the school’s lowest tuition hike since 1984 – as an example of the benefits of a trustee system. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam abolished the state’s Board of Regents in 2015 and implemented independent governing boards for the state’s six universities.

“I’m nervous about these tuition increases being proposed,” Corbett said. “There is no sense of accountability between…university presidents and elected officials. It’s students and parents that get the shaft.”

The office of the Board of Regents employs 20 people and has an office budget of $4.2 million. Corbett’s proposed trustee system would consist of about nine individuals per university. Corbett said that each board would consist of members of university administration, students, alumni and government.

“The state is the minority contributor, yet they have all the control from a governing stand point,” Corbett said. “Other people are having to step up to pay without having a voice.”

Since making the proposal in mid-August, Corbett said that he has received positive feedback in the form of phone calls and emails. He also said that he has been waiting for a response from university presidents to no avail.

When asked for a comment, Iowa State Interim President Benjamin Allen declined on the basis that he “did not intend to get involved in gubernatorial campaigns.”

John McCarroll, executive director of university relations at Iowa State, said that the Iowa Board of Regents was established by statute, chapter 262 of the Code of Iowa. He added that any change in the governance structure for the three public universities in Iowa would require approval by the legislature and the governor.

Senior Communications Director for the Board of Regents Josh Lehman said that the board did not have a comment on Corbett’s proposal. Corbett said that he will attempt to meet with Iowa’s university presidents sometime after Labor Day to discuss his proposal.

“People appreciate the fact that I’m out there questioning the status quo,” Corbett said. “We still have nine months [until the primary]. It’s my goal to not just work hard, but to propose serious ideas for the state of Iowa.”