Iowa college students seek support from lawmakers

Mackenzie Elmer, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- About 20 student leaders at Iowa's state universities lobbied lawmakers Wednesday, imploring them to approve a tuition freeze backed by the Board of Regents.

Students from all three universities met with legislators for "Regents Day," where they said holding the line on tuition was the most important issue to students.

In February, the Board of Regents told lawmakers if they approved a 2.6 percent increase in state funding, the board would freeze tuition for in-state students beginning in August.

Gov. Terry Branstad's budget proposal includes the funding increase, which could allow for the first tuition freeze at the schools in 30 years.

Nic Pottebaum, the University of Iowa undergraduate student body president, said 12,000 UI students would benefit from the freeze in the next school year.

"Iowa students and families will be provided much needed stability and predictability when it comes to paying for college," Pottebaum said.

The plan would keep base tuition at $6,678 at the University of Iowa and $6,648 at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa

Jordan Bancroft-Smithe, UNI student body president, also supports the freeze on tuition which he says has skyrocketed in the past decade, but applauded the regent's request for an extra $4 million for UNI's struggling budget.

"Last year's increase in state support was a positive and long-awaited step in the right direction and, with the support of the Iowa general assembly and Gov. Branstad, we sincerely hope this is a continuing trend," said Bancroft-Smithe.

Michael Appel, president of the UI graduate student executive council, said graduate students are concerned federal grants that fund research will take a hit due to automatic federal funding cuts, known as sequestration.

"These grants mean their livelihood, their career and their future," he said. "I'm calling on our state Legislature to help fill the gaps that sequestration will leave."

The governor's budget plan does not include the full amount sought by the Regents for student aid. The Legislature must now consider the plan.