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Are in-state students treated fairly by Regents’ 4 percent increase request?

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 9:41 a.m. CST

As the Iowa Board of Regents has been advocating for additional funding for Iowa’s state universities, the group charged with overseeing the schools have been contending that it is important to treat all three schools the same. But does the board’s proposed increase treat every in-state student the same?

The funding advocated for by the board and moved forward by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee would a 4 percent increase of each school’s general aid appropriation. The 4 percent hike in funding would provide the following amounts of new money to each school:

University of Iowa — $8,881,654

Iowa State University — $6,959,454

University of Northern Iowa — $3,328,913

The amount of the increases reflects the distorted funding methodology for the state’s three Regents schools. While Iowa State University has the largest number of in-state students during the 2013-14 school year (18,950), their 4 percent increase is nearly $2 million less than what the University of Iowa would receive, which has 16,915 in-state students.

Using the 2013-14 enrollment numbers, the 4 percent increase adds to the disparity in funding per in-state student. UNI would receive an additional $307 for each of its in-state students, which make up around 90 percent of the school’s student body. Iowa State would receive $351 per in-state student on its campus. And the University of Iowa would be the big winner, receiving an additional $525 per in-state student.

These figures tend to confirm a growing perception amongst Iowans that there is a serious flaw in the ways state funds are provided to the three universities. While the Board of Regents is pushing legislators to treat each school the same, their funding formula does not provide anything close to equitable funding for each in-state student. In actuality, the funding divide per student is getting worse.

With the Board of Regents promising action on the distribution formula in the next year, Iowa taxpayers will expect to see a move toward a more equitable way of funding the state’s public institutions of higher education.

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