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Branstad Administration not ready to embrace tuition freeze plan

(Radio Iowa) – Iowa’s lieutenant governor says the Branstad Administration hasn’t yet decided whether to back a plan that would freeze tuition for in-state students at Iowa, Iowa State and UNI again next year. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says that kind of a budget decision will be made later.

“End of November and December, really, we start pulling all of the requests together,” Reynolds says. “…We’ll take a look at all of the requests, where our priorities go, what fits in with our very focused agenda.”

This past spring a plan hammered out by Governor Branstad, legislators and the board that oversees the three state-universities dedicated more state tax dollars go to the schools — so tuition rates could be frozen. Reynolds notes that applies for both this fall’s and next spring’s semesters.

“For the first time in 30 years, Iowa students attending Iowa universities are going to see no increase in their tuition cost,” Reynolds says, “which is phenomenal.”

However, for the 2014/2015 academic year, the Board of Regents is asking for a $20 million increase in general state funding for the schools — so tuition rates would be frozen for the second straight year. Reynolds isn’t saying it’s a done deal, but she’s not rejecting the idea either.

“Right now it fits well with what we’re trying to do,” Reynolds says. “We want to continue to the cost of higher education down.”

The $20 million increase in general state support of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa amounts to a four percent increase. The Regents are asking for another $10 million boost just for UNI, to deal with budget difficulties at the Cedar Falls school. UNI relies almost exclusively on tuition from in-state students, while Iowa State and Iowa draw more students from out-of-state who pay far higher tuition rates.

About 76,000 students are enrolled at the three state universities.