The following is a news update released by Iowa Democrats this week:
Students Paying Higher Tuition this Fall
After another year of low funding from the Iowa Legislature, students and families will be paying more this fall to attend one of Iowa’s state universities or community colleges.
The Regents requested a $7 million increase for Iowa State University (ISU) and the University of Iowa (U of I), and the University of North Iowa (UNI) requested $4 million ($18 million total). Due to budget cuts by GOP leaders over the previous years, even at that amount the Regents indicated that tuition for UI and ISU would go up 3% and UNI’s tuition would remain flat.
After the Legislature approved the budget, all institutions received a mere $4 million increase. This has resulted in an increase to undergraduate in-state tuition by 3.7% and 1.1% for out-of-state students at the U of I. ISU will have a 3.7% increase for in-state undergraduates and a 4.8% increase for out-of-state students. And UNI will have no tuition increase.
UNI has indicated that their tuition freeze will keep them competitive with their peer institutions, but will result in a cut of course sections, increased class sizes, faculty reductions, and a decrease in student financial aid by $1.2 million. UNI is planning on a five-year tuition freeze.
The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and Iowa State University (ISU) are also facing a decrease in student enrollment this fall. The University of Iowa (U of I) predicts an increase in the number of students and even being over capacity for housing by about 100 students. Last year, there was an overall drop of 2.8% to 77,860 students combined at the three universities.
Community Colleges Increase Tuition
Meanwhile, community college students in Iowa will also see their tuition go up for the upcoming school year. Since low state funding has not kept up with inflation and rising costs, the average tuition at Iowa’s community colleges will increase by 3.4% for in-state students. The highest increase will be Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge at 8.2%.
An increase in tuition could lead to more Iowa students looking at out-of-state schools in bordering states that offer lower tuition for Iowa students. Last year, enrollment at Iowa’s 15 community colleges was 131,144.
Rising Costs, Reductions in Reproductive Health Care
A new federal rule means thousands of Iowa women and families will be facing higher costs for their reproductive health care, including cancer screenings.
Last week, the Trump Administration announced a new “gag” rule that prohibits any entity receiving Title X federal funding from discussing abortion. Currently, Title X funding goes towards access to birth control, cervical cancer screenings, and treatment for STDs.
In Iowa, Planned Parenthood received around $1 million from these funds every year to offset costs of providing routine reproductive health care to over 13,800 patients. Because of this rule, Planned Parenthood, one of Iowa’s largest reproductive health providers, will no longer receive this federal funding.
The federal change will have severe consequences for Iowa, where there was a 73% decline in family planning services from 2017 to 2018. That drop came after Republicans in the Iowa Legislature decided to decline $3 million in federal funding to create their own state family program, which today is leaving women with far less access to healthcare services.
Last session, Republican lawmakers changed Iowa law to prohibit certain providers, like Planned Parenthood, from providing age-appropriate, medically accurate information on human growth and development to young people. Studies show the key to preventing teen pregnancy and reducing the rates of STDs is the access to reproductive health services, as well as age-appropriate and medically accurate information.
This comes at a time when access to OB-GYN healthcare in Iowa is drastically low, and there has been an increase in maternal mortality rates. In 2018 alone, eight labor and delivery units have closed across the state and in the past three years, maternal mortality has more than doubled.
Iowa is also facing sharp increases in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. The rates of gonorrhea have increased in Iowa by 145% from four years ago.
125th Anniversary of Labor Day
Monday, September 2nd is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday. The benefits of the labor movement that all Iowans enjoy today include better wages, reasonable hours, weekends, safe working conditions, health care, and compensation for workers injured on the job.
Labor Day has its roots in trade union celebrations in the 19th century. Unions began choosing days to celebrate each year, and these celebrations grew until states began recognizing the days as state holidays. These celebrations spread nationwide with many states adopting the holiday. By the time Congress passed Labor Day legislation, 23 states had celebrations. More than 80 countries worldwide celebrate Labor Day.
Trump Renewable Fuel Waivers Hitting Farmers and Ag Economy Hard
As the trade war continues to take its toll on Iowa’s agriculture economy, the Trump Administration dealt another blow to Iowa farmers last week by siding with big oil and exempting 31 refineries from their obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Under the RFS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can grant waivers to refineries that show compliance with the law is an economic hardship. These waivers then allow then exempt the refineries from the biofuel-blending requirements. The EPA cannot disclose information on individual exemptions; because of this, it’s unknown how many of the exemptions are being granted to hugely profitable multinational oil companies.
The number of waivers granted under the Trump Administration has more than tripled those awarded during the Obama Administration. The waivers granted have resulted in a loss of 4 billion gallons of ethanol, and decreased demand of 1.4 billion bushels of corn.
Under the law, the EPA is directed to reallocate the gallons from the exempted refineries, but has not done so since the beginning of the Trump administration.
State Retirement Plans Provide Economic Benefits to Iowa
Protecting and maintaining a strong retirement plan for our teachers, police officers, and nurses is vital for a strong economy in Iowa. Making sure the plan is working and secure is not only important for the members of the plan, but also provides $3.3 billion in economic output in Iowa.
According to a recent study by the National Institute of Retirement Security (NIRS), pension payments supported 21,556 jobs and $915.4 million in wages and salaries. Public retirement plans also generated $555.7 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue. A separate finding by the Iowa Coalition for Retirement Security found that of the $1.8 billion benefits paid out by one plan, 86% of payments stayed right here in the state of Iowa.
Not only are the payments vital for the economic activity in the state but they also are a good deal for taxpayers. For every dollar invested in the plan, there is a return of $7.07 in economic activity. It should be the priority of the legislature to protect and strengthen these plans and to ensure that all Iowans have access to a strong, secure retirement.
Emerald Ash Borer Continues to Spread in Iowa
With Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) on the rise, Iowans are reminded to take precautions to prevent the spread by limiting the transport of firewood across counties.
EAB is an invasive wood-boring beetle that kills ash trees. The beetle is native to East Asia and came to the U.S. through trees from the region. EAB was first discovered in Iowa in 2010 along the Mississippi River and has since moved westward. Three counties have recently been added to the listed of infected counties, Chickasaw, Franklin, and Jones, bringing the total to 69 counties with EAB. EAB is spread by humans through transporting firewood and buying ash trees grown in infested regions.
The Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and local governments are working together to prevent the spread of EAB. Three different species of bugs that eat EABs have been released and ash trees have been removed. The DNR recommends not transporting firewood across county lines to prevent the further spread.
If you believe you have an infested ash tree on your property the DNR does not recommend using imidacloprid drenching for the treatment of EAB. Visit http://www.iowatreepests.com/eab_resources.html for the recommended steps for preventing EAB.