Nadler: The state Board of Regents deserves more

The state Board of Regents received an increase in its budget. However, this is still not adequate for it to fulfill part of its mission.


Tate Hildyard

Regents listen to UI President Bruce Harreld at a meeting at the UI on April 18, 2019.

Zohar Nadler, Opinions Columnist

Iowa House lawmakers have approved a $961 million education-appropriations bill, which includes $15.9 million for the state Board of Regents. The Senate has yet to pass an education-appropriations bill, but if the House version passes, the regents are to distribute the $15.9 million across the three public universities in the state: Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. While $15.9 million may seem promising, it falls around $2 million short of what the regents had requested. The budget did not decrease this year as in the last two years, nor were there additional midyear budget cuts, but Iowa’s three public universities could benefit greatly from an even higher budget than what was given.

For one, Iowa ranks 50th in the country for awarding need-based aid to students at public institutions. Iowa, being the lowest ranking, emphasizes that the state has work cut out for itself. The regents asked for the incremental state-funding increase to dedicate specifically to financial-aid awards for resident undergraduates. If the regents cannot allocate money for financial aid, there could be a decrease in the number of students heading to the state universities because they are not receiving necessary financial awards to pursue their education.

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Part of the regents’ mission statement is to “provide a high-quality accessible education to all of its students.” How are the regents supposed to fulfill this part of their mission if they are not given adequate means to do so? With the lack of need-based awards given from public universities, the Legislature should confront the ranking and dispense more money to the regents so public universities can give more financial-aid awards. A denial of funding could affect the individual lives of the students who are trying to put themselves through college.

I would like to see not only an increase in the budget given to the regents but an adequate budget that will allow the regents to allocate more financial-aid awards to students attending public universities in Iowa. For some students, if they are not given need-based awards, they may not be able to afford a postsecondary education. With the annual 3 percent to 5 percent increase in resident-undergraduate tuition for Iowa’s public universities coming in the next five years, we can see that the state needs more money. However, it is unfair to increase tuition and still not offer sufficient need-based awards to students. With the increase of tuition and lack of need-based aid from the state, I fear that some Iowans could be deterred from pursuing a college education.

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In order to fulfill their mission, the regents need to be given the means to make education more accessible to Iowans pursuing a postsecondary education. The increase in the budget to the state’s public universities is a step in the right direction. However, the funding is still not adequate for the regents to pursue a part of their mission that seeks to make education more accessible to students.