Iowa Senate passes $12 million funding boost for regents, falling below request

The Iowa Senate passed a bill to appropriate an additional $12 million to Iowa’s three state universities, $6 million less than the state Board of Regents asked for.


Ben Allan Smith

The Capitol building in Des Moines is pictured on April 29, 2019.

Julia DiGiacomo and Sarah Watson, Politics Reporter

Iowa’s three state universities will likely receive a collective $12 million funding boost as both chambers of the state Legislature have approved a state-appropriations bill following a Tuesday Iowa Senate vote.

The Senate passed the bill, which was a culmination of negotiations with House Republicans, Tuesday evening along party lines in a 32-18 vote. Now, the appropriations bill awaits the governor’s approval .

That boost falls below the $18 million increase requested by the state Board of Regents, which governs Iowa’s three state universities, which Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds supported in her January budget proposal.

Amendments to the House bill in the Senate resulted in a $3.9 million cut to regent university funding compared with the version of the bill that passed in the House. The Iowa House version of the education-appropriations bill, which allocated $15.9 million for Iowa’s state universities, passed April 8.

Regents said if the $18 million appropriations request wasn’t fully funded, tuition hikes would fall between a 3 percent and 5 percent range for resident undergraduates attending the University of Iowa and Iowa State University of Iowa. Those rates are based on a multiyear tuition model the regents unveiled in November 2018.

RELATED: Iowa House passes education budget falling short of funding requests

The regents delayed a first reading of tuition rates that was anticipated to take place during their April meeting. Regent President Mike Richards said the regents would call a special meeting in late April or early May to discuss tuition before taking a final vote in June.

“We are not interested in setting tuition rates and then having to adjust them later,” Richards said.  “… I recognize this delay in a first reading of tuition rates is frustrating for students and families.”

Previously, the regents have set tuition rates in the fall and then hiked tuition rates above what was previously set in the summer after the state did not fulfill the regents’ funding requests and made midyear budget cuts to the universities, prompting the UI to halt certain construction projects and — at the time — leading to the closure of several centers and institutes.

In the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers handed the regents an $8.3 million increase for fiscal 2019, which didn’t make up for $11 million in midyear funding cuts made to cover a state-budget shortfall during fiscal 2018. State lawmakers overall trimmed more than $30 million from the regents’ budget over the course of two fiscal years.