Reconsider regents’ funding model for Iowa universities

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The state Board of Regents has asked for nearly $16 million in new funds for the public universities in the state. Well, not all the public universities — only ISU and UNI. The

proposed increase for the University of Iowa is $0. The UI still receives the most state money in general-fund appropriations, with $230 million. In comparison, ISU receives $190.4 million and UNI $101.9 million.

The regents cited ISU’s “record enrollment” and UNI’s “tendency to teach Iowans who stay in Iowa” as their justifications to the increases. They ignored the UI’s having a freshman class 420 students larger than last year. UNI’s tendency for Iowans to stay in Iowa is not necessarily a positive thing, either, and whether bringing students into the state leads to more people settling down in Iowa is also up for debate and study. Ultimately, the UNI excuse seems flimsy at best.

The UI has the most diversity among the Iowa public universities and is better for it. Students from Illinois, California, and beyond are being ignored, and the regents are putting pressure on the state universities to minimize out-of-state students in favor of Iowans. Universities are a place for knowledge and growth. Without the introduction of those with perspectives different from those of Iowans, such knowledge and growth cannot exist.

The effects of such stagnation could be far-reaching. The UI is the largest employer in Iowa City, at times employing 30,000 or more people. State funding is essential in hiring, training, and maintaining these numbers that buoy the local economy. We also can’t forget about the corps teaching or assisting nearly every undergraduate classroom — the graduate students. Price of living is high enough, and many are desperately struggling to make ends meet while teaching for UI, being a full-time student, and, in many cases, trying to raise a family. Graduate students have been pressing for years to have living wages, but they won’t see that happen if university policy and state funding remain the same.

Such programs as the Iowa Youth Writing Project, a community outreach program that lets students teach creative writing in nearby elementary schools and community centers, struggles with funding as is. Similar programs that benefit Iowa City and Cedar Rapids are at risk because of a lack of funding. The UI brings in writers and artists from around the world and is responsible for making Iowa City the one and only UNESCO City of Literature in the U.S. The UI Hospitals and Clinics treats thousands of patients, and state funding is needed to continue the cutting-edge biomedical research the UI conducts.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board supports the regents’ decision to increase funding for ISU and UNI, but is appalled that the UI, a leader in medicine, literature, and local community, has been ignored. The message they send is that the UI doesn’t deserve appropriations.

The Editorial Board believes that the funding model adopted by the regents does not take into account the value provided by students coming from around the country and even the world, and the policy should be re-examined.

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