Iowa Tuition Grant could see cut in funding

by Sarah Lefeber and Emily SchettlerEditor in Chief and Copy Editor

The Iowa Tuition Grant program, a program that each year offers state-funded grants to approximately 17,000 students attending private colleges and universities, could likely see a cut in funding for the 2010 fiscal year.

The Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference announced last week an estimated $270 million dollar drop in the state’s revenue in the upcoming fiscal year, and legislators are making budget cuts across the board to help alleviate the problem.

“Because of the deepening national recession, every part of the state budget is facing likely cuts during this legislative session,” Sen. Staci Appel, D-Indianola said.

Nearly 800 Simpson College students receive the tuition grant each year. President John Byrd said that maintaining the Iowa Tuition Grant is a top priority.

“We’re working very hard with our state legislators to maximize the amount of the Iowa Tuition Grant for our students,” Byrd said. “We’re going to continue to tell the story about how important the Iowa Tuition Grant is to our students and to do everything we can to minimize reductions in the ITG appropriation.”

Any Iowa resident who attends one of Iowa’s 30 private colleges or universities is eligible to receive the grant. Assistance is awarded based on financial need, and the maximum amount awarded is $4,000 per year.

Gary Steinke, President of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said cuts to the Iowa Tuition Grant could strip some students of the opportunity to go to college.

“The most important message is that private colleges in the state of Iowa educate more of the state’s needy students than all three regent universities combined,” Steinke said.

Approximately 44 percent of the state’s undergraduates and 40 percent of those who receive graduate degrees are from private colleges and universities, according to Byrd. He points out that the tuition grant only accounts for five percent of the state’s higher education budget.

“It’s a wonderful return on their investment,” he said.

The state subsidizes students who attend private institutions in the amount of about $4,000. Students who attend public universities are subsidized by almost $12,000.

Byrd said the issue is one that the entire administration is working on. He said members of the board of trustees are getting involved, administrators are making trips to the capitol and faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni are being encouraged to contact their legislators.

Byrd emphasized that the next three weeks will be a critical time for students and their parents to contact their legislators.

“If no one calls or writes, they’re probably going to think it’s not that important an issue” he said. “I would recommend that every student who receives the ITG let their legislators know how important this is in their financial aid package. It’s one of the sources that make it possible not just to attend Simpson, but to attend college.”

Rep. Kent Sorenson, R-Indianola, said he has received a lot of feedback from constituents.

“I’ve heard from a lot of supporters,” Sorenson said. “There’s been a great outpouring of support on this issue.”

Sorenson said he would not vote for anything that cuts funding for the Iowa Tuition Grant.

“It’s really important to support private colleges,” Sorenson said. “We need to come together in support of our students.”