Editorial: Iowa House bill would exclude out-of-state students, hurt UI funding

The state Senate needs to vote down the bill in order to protect the UI’s financial interests and our student body.


Design by Katina Zentz

DI Editorial Board

Iowa lawmakers are meddling in the state Board of Regents’ business. An Iowa House bill passed on Tuesday could shape the University of Iowa’s ability to brand itself as a destination university for students worldwide.

The bill would require the regents to adopt a policy stipulating that 75 percent of students admitted to the UI Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry be Iowa residents or enrolled in an eligible postsecondary institution prior to enrolling in those two schools. The proposal now goes to the Iowa Senate for passage.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board urges the state Senate to vote against this bill’s passage when it comes up for debate.

While the UI is a public institution of the Hawkeye State, this proposal counters what it means to be Iowan. Lawmakers should embrace that the university opens its doors to people from around the U.S. and around the globe — that’s what makes Hawkeyes great.

If the regents are forced to bar more out-of-state and international students from attending these programs, we will miss many talented, bright, and passionate students from beyond Iowa’s borders.

Students are currently admitted based on their application, not their location. The UI should not be forced to admit a student who isn’t as qualified as a nonresident applicant to these graduate programs just because they’re from Iowa.

We will miss many talented, bright, and passionate students from beyond Iowa’s borders.

A nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency note assessing the bill’s fiscal impact cites fall 2018 regents’ enrollment report data showing resident students represent 66.3 percent of graduate and postgraduates enrolled in the College of Dentistry and 63.6 percent in the College of Medicine. This bill implies the schools have shifted away from training Iowans and preparing students to work in those fields in Iowa, but that couldn’t be further from reality.

The agency estimates this would reduce tuition revenue to the two schools by $800,000 to $1 million annually. Fiscal 2020 base graduate tuition rates are $10,079 for resident students and $29,026 for nonresidents, meaning nonresident graduate students pay $18,947 more for their education.

The UI stands to lose money with this bill.

In a time when our state has already disinvested from higher education, it is harmful to pass legislation that would leave the UI once again scrounging for more funds elsewhere. Tuition revenue already makes up around two-thirds of the general-fund pie.

Of course, UI students don’t want more tuition hikes, and nonresident and international students shouldn’t be seen as a cash cow to tap as a revenue source. 

By supporting only one-third of the UI’s general-fund revenue, Iowa has shown time and time again it’s not a willing partner in adequately funding regent universities, prompting further tuition hikes from the regents.

It is harmful to pass legislation that would leave the UI once again scrounging for more funds elsewhere.

Now, lawmakers want to enact a policy inhibiting the UI from reaping in tuition dollars it needs to support high-quality academic programs without fully restoring the previous cuts to the regent institutions.

Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, who introduced the bill, said Tuesday during House floor debate that she’s heard from students in these programs that their nonresident counterparts have no intention of staying in Iowa.

“We are losing the benefit in Iowa,” Meyer said. “Your tax dollars are educating out-of-state kids, and they’re going back to practice.”

Considering the UI heavily relies on tuition revenue, her point is moot. Students are already responsible for financing their education more than the state. 

Further, the College of Dentistry reports 80 percent of Iowa dentists studied at the UI, and the College of Medicine reports 50 percent of Iowa’s 5,000 practicing physicians received some or all of their medical education at UI.

Chapter 262(9) of Iowa Code empowers the regents to “make rules for admission to and for the government of said institutions, not inconsistent with law.” 

And with this bill, Iowa lawmakers are overreaching their power.

Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the DI Editorial Board and not the opinion of the Publisher, Student Publications Inc., or the University of Iowa. Editorial board members are Marissa PayneBrooklyn DraiseyElijah Helton, Becca Bright, and Jason O’Day