Legislature: State budget cuts won’t affect private schools

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by Zoe Seiler, Contributor

The Iowa Senate passed its mid-year budget reductions on Feb. 8, which cuts spending by $31.9 million and would result in large budget reductions for state universities, community colleges, Iowa courts and human services.

The Iowa House of Representatives has proposed a $33.8 million budget reduction, which would also reduce the budgets of the state universities and human services, as well as the Department of Corrections.

The proposed budget cuts will affect higher education funding the most. The Senate plans to cut the Board of Regents’ institutions by $14.6 million, a cut that is $4.7 million less than what a previous plan had called for.

While the budget cuts will affect the Regents’ institutions, private colleges like Simpson will not be affected due to the difference in the way public and private institutions receive state funding.

The three state public universities receive a state subsidy of about $11,000 in tax support when a student enrolls in one of the universities. Simpson and other private colleges receive state funding through the Iowa Tuition Grant.

“That is a grant that goes to the individual student when they choose a small private,” said Simpson President Jay Simmons. “The Iowa Tuition Grant was created in recognition of the fact that you and your family are paying those taxes and some money should go to you to support you in your choice of a private college.”

The Senate budget cuts will not affect small, private schools right now because the Iowa Tuition Grant has already been awarded to students for the spring semester, Simmons said.

Students at private schools do not need to worry about the budget cuts currently. However, the Iowa Legislature is looking to make cuts for next year’s budget. Students could see less money from the Iowa Tuition Grant then.

Simmons anticipates some reductions to the Iowa Tuition Grant for next year but remains hopeful for an increase.

“One of the good signs that we had for the Iowa Tuition Grant is that the governor’s budget proposal for next year included a $700,000 increase in the Iowa Tuition Grant for next year,” Simmons said. “Now, we know we probably won’t see all of that increase funded by the state Legislature, but it is a strong signal to the legislature from the governor’s office that there is support for the Iowa Tuition Grant and that will help us as we work with the Legislature to figure out what changes might occur in the Iowa Tuition Grant for next year.”

The full amount of the Iowa Tuition Grant will be determined by the Legislature and finalized by April. The Legislature has cut funding for higher education, but some lawmakers are working to protect the Iowa Tuition Grant.

“Our representative from the district, Scott Ourth, has been a champion for the Iowa Tuition Grant and has worked very closely with Simpson and other small privates around the state to help protect that program,” Simmons said.