BY LISA ROSSI AND ERIN JORDAN REGISTER STAFF WRITERS September 7, 2006
Iowa gets an F for college affordability in a report to be issued today by a national education research group.
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education graded each state using data that show the growth over 10 years in the percentage of personal income eaten up by post-high school training, minus financial aid.
Iowa families in 1992 spent 18 percent of their incomes to send a child to a four-year college or university, the center's report said. The figure has grown to 30 percent, the report said.
"A lot of additional costs are passed on to families," said Jonathan Felder, a policy analyst for the nonprofit group.
He attributed the rise primarily to tuition increases. Forty-three states received F's, compared with only three in 2000.
"We hope state policymakers in Iowa will look at the report and ... generate some of their own solutions," such as more taxpayer money for tuition aid and university budgets, Felder said.
State Sen. Michael Connolly, a Dubuque Democrat and co-chairman the Senate Education Committee, said Iowa's affordability grade in the study reflects the shift of the cost of higher education from all taxpayers to students.
"The state has backed off its commitment to higher education," he said.
Student tuition and fees at the University of Iowa surpassed state appropriations as the largest source of general education money for the first time ever this year.
The report might also signal that Iowa's public universities need to cut spending, said state Sen. Paul McKinley, a Chariton Republican and co-chairman of the committee with Connolly.
"It's a matter of priorities in the universities," McKinley said. "If the regents universities are losing students, they will have to make adjustments."
The national report was issued the same day Iowa's three state-run universities made public their enrollment numbers.
Marc Harding, Iowa State University's director of admissions, said cost is a factor when students decide whether or not to attend college.
"College affordability is a key piece to all of us," he said. "You'll find great sensitivity to it."
Students are more concerned than ever about the cost of education and plan to lobby the Legislature for more money, said ISU graduate student Jason Carroll, 23, a member of the school's student government.
"The state definitely needs to look at its priorities," he said. "State funding has decreased, or the state will give a one-time funding. "