A controversial new funding distribution plan for Iowa’s three state universities, proposed by the Board of Regents, appears to have strong support from Gov. Terry Branstad.

“It makes sense to me that the focus should be on giving higher educational opportunities for Iowa in-state students,” Branstad said Monday, July 7, in an IowaWatch interview.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, speaking with IowaWatch reporters at the Iowa Statehouse on Monday, July 7, 2014. Credit: Lauren Mills/IowaWatch

Last month Iowa’s Board of Regents adopted a funding model that would base allocation of a portion of funds for the state universities on the number of in-state students they educate.

The University of Iowa, which recruits out-of-state and international students heavily, is set to be hit the hardest by this change. It will lose up to $12.9 million each year, while funding for Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa will increase.

Come September, the board will turn its new funding ideas over to the governor, a UI graduate himself.

And Branstad, who says the formula has been outdated for some time, is ready for it.

In the IowaWatch interview, he gave his support of the regents and their proposed fund distribution changes.

“These are state universities so the fact that the taxpayers of Iowa are subsidizing the universities, I don’t think that we should be subsidizing out of state students,” Branstad said.

While Branstad said he understands the need for the kind of diversity out-of-state and international students bring to a campus, he sees a problem with the growth of out-of-state students coming to Iowa’s state universities.

“Out-of-state students pay a much higher tuition, which means the university that has more out-of-state students has a financial advantage over the institution that is primarily serving Iowa students and yet these are state universities.”

The regents froze tuition for in-state students at the state universities in each of the last two years and the state made up the difference.

Branstad offered no changes that he would like to see made to the funding model before it reaches his desk. Instead, he applauded changes that already have been made by the regents in response to concern from UI faculty.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad was interviewed by IowaWatch reporters (left to right) Sarah Hadley, Amber Rouse and Jacob Luplow on July 7, 2014. Credit: Lauren Mills/IowaWatch

Those changes include counting the UI’s graduate student population toward the regents’ formula and phasing in the plan over a longer period of time than originally proposed.

The regent’s fall 2013 enrollment report shows that only two of every five graduate students at the UI are from Iowa. One-half of the UI’s students, overall, were from Iowa in fall 2013, UI Registrar statistics show. Two of every three ISU students in fall 2013 were from the state. At UNI, nine of every 10 students were from Iowa.

“Change is always difficult, yet I think that the change that they’re advocating, that the regents are looking at implementing, is something that will probably be pretty well received by most Iowans who feel that their state universities ought to focus on providing not only a great education, but opportunities for Iowa students,” Branstad said.

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