Author: Jonathan Solis
Outside the Iowa House chambers, a small group of University of Iowa students filled out pink slips requesting an audience with Rep. Dave Jacoby D-Coralville, one of their local representatives.
They handed the slip to a page, who disappeared into the throng of officials, tourists, students, and photographers. A few minutes later, Jacoby emerged, smiling, and greeted the group of UI students in the noisy hall.
The group, led by Katherine Valde, the government-relations liaison for the UI Student Government, followed Jacoby back into the chambers. There, they shared their personal experiences at the UI and thanked him for his legislative support for a proposed tuition freeze.
More than 75 students spent Tuesday morning meeting with their hometown legislators and showcasing the UI’s impact on the state. The group of UI students traveled to the Capitol on Tuesday for the third-annual Hawkeye Caucus Day, which promotes the university’s goals and mission statewide to legislators.
The group came to the Capitol with one goal in mind: asking the Legislature to support the proposed tuition freeze for the upcoming academic year.
The state Board of Regents voted to approve a tuition freeze for regent universities in December 2012 for the 2013-2014 school year. Base tuition will sit at $6,678 for in-state undergraduate students, but the regents asked legislators to appropriate $40 million to supplement the tuition revenue lost.
“It’s critical that state funding remain in our regent schools, because state funding keeps tuition low — not as low as some people want it — but we also want to ensure, especially Iowa students, have access to a university setting,” Jacoby said.
Sen. David Johnson R-Ocheyedan, said the budget appropriations still must pass the Senate, whose members ask where the budget appropriations will come from.
Last week, Regent President Craig Lang wrote to the Senate, saying, “The board looks forward to working with the Legislature regarding our fiscal 2014 appropriations request, particularly with respect to a 2.6 percent increase in general fund appropriations that will allow the board to freeze tuition for the next academic year for the first time in over 30 years.”
UI students drove home that issue on Tuesday by talking face-to-face with those senators, explaining the benefits Iowa has brought them and the state.
On the first floor of the Capitol’s rotunda, officials from the Pomerantz Career Center, Alumni Association, University Foundation, along with almost 40 other organizations showcased their impact on the state.
“We think the Iowa Legislature does a great job of supporting the University of Iowa,” said Vince Nelson, the president of the UI Alumni Association. “So many of them are big Hawkeye fans, and support us, and support the institution … We are very, very grateful.”
The Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students focused on informing legislators of the impact of UI graduate students. Executive Council President Michael Appel spent Caucus Day articulating these points.
For instance, UI nursing and law graduates practice in every county in the state. Doctors from the UI practice in 88 counties, by the council’s count.
Graduate and professional students have other impacts, too, such as providing around 30 percent of the total semester hours of undergraduate instruction, and they have helped “accelerate the growth of 30 startup companies, which created 103 new jobs,” Appel said.
Near the end of the day, the students gathered on the central staircase of the Capitol behind UI President Sally Mason for a photograph.
She said the tuition freeze was a central point this year because in the recently tough economic times, it’s important to keep school as affordable as possible.
“It’s a great opportunity for students,” said UISG Vice President Jessie Tobin. “For a lot of students, they haven’t lobbied before. This is their first introduction to the Capitol and speaking to their legislators. It’s a win-win situation. Students like doing this, and legislators are happy they’re here.”