We all know that a college education is expensive. There has been a debate for many years about increasing college tuition and the level of student debt here in Iowa. A related issue that has not received as much attention is something called tuition set-asides. Each of Iowa's public universities (Iowa, ISU, and UNI) set aside a portion of tuition payments to offer as scholarships to other students. This practice started in the 1980s and became official policy for the Regents in 2004.
In FY 2011, over $144 million (21.3 percent) of tuition proceeds was set-aside and awarded to undergraduates and graduate/professional students as need-based and merit-based aid at all three institutions. A total of 25,583 undergraduate students received student financial aid through the tuition set-aside funds.
Each university sets the amount of tuition set aside for scholarship of other students. The percentage and amounts vary between each school, undergraduate and graduate, and resident and non-resident tuition. The following percentages of resident tuition are set aside for each institution: Iowa - 24 percent, ISU - 18.6 percent and UNI - 15.3 percent.
For undergraduate students the current effect of the policy is that $1,864 of the $7,765 tuition bill at the University of Iowa is used to offset scholarships of other students. At ISU - $1,392 of the $7,486 tuition bill benefits other students, and at UNI - $980 of the $6,408 tuition bill is applied to other students' scholarships rather than direct costs of the paying student.
One interesting effect of this is that if a student receives a scholarship from an outside group or a student loan, a significant portion of that is actually going to help pay someone else's college costs.
Whether or not this is a wise policy will be debated, but I believe that students and their parents need to be aware of this. We have received assurances from the Board of Regents and the university presidents that they will start putting a disclosure on students U-bills that will provide more transparency on this issue.
Roadside cleanup costs increase
Department of Transportation officials attribute an increase in the cost of their roadside trash cleanup to the fact that fewer people are adopting Iowa's roadways via the "Adopt a Highway" program. In the past six years, trash removal costs have risen 53 percent (from $485,732 in FY 05 to $743,606 in FY 11). The more urban areas are still covered pretty well, but rural areas have been harder to get volunteers for because of the convenience factor.
The Adopt-a-Highway program started in 1989. In fiscal year 2011, about 1200 groups collected 512 cubic yards of garbage. This kept 32 percent of Iowa's roadsides clean. The groups range from Boy Scouts and sororities, to Jimmy Buffet Fans and Veteran's Clubs. The Kiwanis Club of Maquoketa has been adopting a part of Highway 61 for 22 years (longest running group).
The Department of Transportation provides garbage bags and required safety vests for the semi-annual, required cleanups. Generally, the roadsides are adopted in two mile stretches. All volunteers must be 14 years old or have adult supervision. For more information on the program visit: www.iowadot.gov/maintenance/adopt_a_highway.html
Last week, the Iowa House and Senate voted to strengthen Iowa's solicitation laws. Senate File 2296 was designed to create a criminal offense for solicitation to commit murder. This specific charge is not currently in the Iowa Code and county attorneys and others pointed out that without this change, some who solicit another to commit murder could avoid serving much time in prison.
The bill started in both the Senate and House and members agreed to work together to get the legislation through both chambers. The Senate passed SF 2296 on March 6 by a vote of 47 to 1. The Bill was then referred to the House Judiciary committee which approved the bill and sent it to the House floor for further debate. On March 14 the House passed SF 2296 by a vote of 84 to 12.
Oftentimes the media only report on the bills where agreement cannot be found or on issues that are polarizing. The public is often led to believe that we spend most of our time arguing with each other. Actually most of the bills that make it to the House floor receive near unanimous support. In the past couple of weeks we have passed probably close to 100 bills of this type.
Bi-partisan work isn't always possible in politics, but the work by both parties on this bill shows how important it is for Iowans. SF 2296 has been sent to the Governor for his signature.
Contact Rep. Dave Deyoe at 515-382-2352 or via email: Dave.Deyoe@legis.state.ia.us.