Obama’s message to U of I students also relevant to Iowa lawmakers

In his visit to the University of Iowa tomorrow, President Obama is expected to speak about student debt and the cost of earning a college degree – topics that are likely to resonate with many University of Iowa students and their counterparts at other Iowa institutions of higher learning.

According to the Project on Student Debt, the amount of debt carried by graduates of Iowa’s three public universities is the third-highest in the nation. The same study found that three-quarters of University of Northern Iowa students, over two-thirds of Iowa State students, and half of University of Iowa students borrowed to finance their education in 2009-10.

Given the rapid increase in tuition over the past decade, it is perhaps unsurprising that more and more students are borrowing more and more money to finance their education.

Unsurprising, but not unavoidable.

Iowa's universities rely on tuition to finance their mission, a consequence of steep declines in state funding.

Tuition increases are a direct result of decreased state funding for higher education. As we pointed out last month in an Iowa Fiscal Partnership policy brief, the rapid increase in tuition at Iowa’s public universities has coincided with a sharp decrease in state funding for Iowa’s public universities.

Even with a recovering economy and increased state revenues, some Iowa lawmakers are resisting the call for to increase university funding from students, university officials, and Governor Branstad.

President Obama will likely discuss federal policy options to ease the debt load many college graduates now carry. The role that Iowa plays in keeping student debt low and making college broadly affordable must not be forgotten either.

Education is a long-term economic development initiative that has been proven, time and again, to work. A broad, well-educated and well-trained workforce translates into a stronger economy for all Iowans. Iowa lawmakers would do well to remember this as they finalize education funding for Fiscal Year 2013.

Posted by Andrew Cannon, Research Associate

Author: iowapolicypoints

The Iowa Policy Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides research and analysis to engage Iowans in state policy decisions. We focus on tax and busget issues, the Iowa economy, and energy and environmental policy. By providing a foundation of fact-based, objective research and engaging the public in an informed discussion of policy alternatives, IPP advances effective, accountable and fair government.

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