Iowa representative proposes ‘tuition freeze’ bill


The Iowa Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa.

Danielle Gehr

A proposed “tuition freeze” bill would prevent Iowa’s regent universities from raising tuition for one year. 

The bill – proposed by Rep. Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, – will affect undergraduate, graduate and professional tuition rates during the 2017-18 academic year.

Highfill, at 27-years-old, experienced university expenses of his own after attending Kirkwood Community College for two years and later the University of Iowa. 

His goal when proposing this bill is to slow the growth in the regents’ budget. 

“Every year we grow the budget,” Highfill told The Gazette. “We’re investing a lot in our kids. We’re investing a lot in higher education. I think we should freeze tuition and let them save a little money.”

The Board of Regents opposes the lack of flexibility that the bill offers to work with universities on their tuition.

This bill comes after Iowa Legislature approved $18 million in budget cuts to public universities. Iowa State will see $8.99 million in cuts. 

Iowa State recently saw a tuition increase for 2016-17 school year, as well. Steven Leath, Iowa State’s president, made a statement regarding the increase. 

“We understand any cost increase can be a challenge for students and their families. However, the revenue provided through this increase is absolutely necessary in order for us to maintain the academic quality and student experience that our students deserve and expect,” Leath said.

Student Body President Cole Staudt spoke out about the first round of tuition increases once they were announced June of last year, just a few months after his inauguration. 

He argued that even small increases can have large effects on students. 

“Three-hundred dollars may not seem like a lot, but to college students — and to me, it is,” Staudt said. “Three-hundred dollars is what I will spend on food this entire summer.”

The current Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter recently froze student tuition for the first time in 40 years, a move he claimed would help students take a break from Iowa’s climbing rates. 

“We will continue to work to improve access and affordability at Iowa’s public universities, particularly for Iowa residents,” Rastetter said regarding the third consecutive tuition freeze for undergraduate students for the 2015-16 school year. 

Rastetter recently announced his resignation as president. 

If Gov. Terry Branstad is confirmed as the Chinese ambassador, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will take over as Iowa’s governor. She has spoken of keeping public universities affordable in the past, being a recent graduate from Iowa State University in 2016. 

“We doubted whether we could freeze tuition at our state universities, but we did it because we reformed the state budget and got it in order,” Reynolds said.