Thursday, January 17, 2008

Community Colleges Are Iowa's Answer

January 17, 2008, 9:45 a.m.

No Time to be Cutting Community Colleges Budgets or Raising Tuition

There are a number of components of Iowa's educational system -- pre-kindergarten, K-12, community colleges, and the Regents universities -- plus the for-profit and private institutions. The former are paid for with a combination of income, property and sales taxes (plus grants and fees). The latter, it turns out, also benefit from public funding.

As a University of Iowa employee I have some sense of what it takes financially to run an institution of this size -- as well as a sense of what a small proportion of this "state university's" budget comes from the state (rather than grants and tuition) -- and the numerous contributions it makes to this state. My selfish interests favor UI getting more money from the Iowa Legislature than it is ever likely to provide.

Moreover, the Regents, Governor and Legislature clearly have spent some time studying, and have an incentive to come up with, the optimum package in terms of total funding of education and the allocation of those funds among all the components of our system. I have not.

Nonetheless, intuitively it seems to me that Iowa's top priority at this time ought to be a free or very, very cheap tuition community college system, and there seems to be some complaint that has not been the case.

Unlike the Regents' institutions, some 90% of the students attending community colleges are Iowans.

Moreover, a very high proportion of the graduates stay in Iowa -- at a time when that seems to be a state priority.

The state's economic development is largely dependent upon the graduates from the "associate" degree programs community colleges provide.

For those who do want to graduate from a Regents' institution, it's much cheaper to have them prove their ability to benefit from it with a couple years' academic performance at a community college first -- a program we've already begun.

Attracting and supporting Iowa businesses with a highly trained workforce makes a lot more sense for everyone -- from shareholders to taxpayers to students -- than TIFs, tax breaks, and other gifts of taxpayers' cash to bribe for-profit enterprises.

The K-12 education has been "free" for decades; isn't it about time we extended that to K-14? California's community colleges were free for years. One of the major purposes and attractions of the colleges is the low cost, not only in tuition but also by making it possible for students to live near (or at) home. Intuitively, it seems to me that forcing our community colleges to raise tuition is one of the most counter productive things we could do.
See Jason Clayworth, "Fallout of college shortage called 'tsunami-like,'" Des Moines Register, January 17, 2008, and see Jay Christensen-Szalanski, "Time to Adjust College Grant Program," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 17, 2008, p. A7 ("last year our state paid more than $52 million in grants for undergraduates to attend private and for-profit colleges, while only paying $500,000 in grants to undergraduates who attended the three public universities").

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1 comment:

Nick said...

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