- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - There may be a tuition increase at Iowa’s three public universities because the Legislature proposed limited new dollars for the next budget year, the board that oversees the schools said Thursday.

Bruce Rastetter, president of the Iowa Board of Regents, released a statement after a legislative group met at the Capitol to finalize the details of a roughly $1 billion education budget. It included nearly $600 million for the regents, but just about $6 million in new dollars for the state’s three public universities.

“The Board understands that this was a particularly challenging year, with limited funds available. However, we are very disappointed the proposed funding to the public universities was well below the Board’s request,” Rastetter said in a statement.

Rastetter said the regents will immediately start discussions regarding tuition increases for the upcoming school year. Those details won’t be finalized until the board formally meets.

The University of Iowa would receive $1.3 million in new dollars for its general spending under the budget proposed by the joint Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Iowa State University would receive about $2.2 million in new money and the University of Northern Iowa would get just over $2.7 million.

Roughly $200 million for community colleges would include over $3 million in new money. A spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education, Staci Hupp, said the department is allocated funding for community colleges but does not determine tuition increases for those institutions.

Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, a Mount Ayr Republican and co-chairman of the subcommittee, said he and his co-chairman tried to prioritize higher education despite the limited new dollars. He said he recognizes it may not prevent a tuition increase but it could reduce the impact.

“I assume that if they do have to do an increase it will be much less of what they had probably anticipated,” he said.

Lawmakers on the committee were given a spending target that proposed just under $5 million in new dollars. Legislative leaders on the committee said they made slight cuts in other areas to maximize funding for the groups receiving the biggest piece of new dollars.

Rep. Cindy Winckler, a Davenport Democrat and a ranking member on the subcommittee, voted against the education budget, calling it “woefully inadequate.”

“This certainly puts families and students squarely in the bull’s eye of having to find more resources to fund their higher education,” she said.

Lawmakers are finalizing a set of bills that will make up the roughly $7.34 billion budget for the fiscal year that goes into effect in July.

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