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Office of Governmental Relations

2013 Legislative Update

2013 Legislative Updates

2013 Legislative Session concludes

May 24, 2013

The Legislature adjourned yesterday after completing work on the fiscal 2014 state budget. It includes:

  • $2.1 million increase in general state aid for UNI (a 2.6% increase)
  • $10 million special appropriation to address UNI’s reliance on state appropriations
    We are grateful to the legislature for recognizing the unique funding challenges at UNI resulting from our historic focus on educating Iowa residents. It is important to note, however, that this is one time funding that needs to be spent over two years and will not be continued in the base or increase UNI's ongoing general fund.

Other funding includes:

  • $5.2 million for STEM
    This is an increase of $500,000 directed to provide technology education opportunities to high school, career academy, and community college students through a public-private partnership, as well as opportunities for students and faculties at these institutions to secure broad-based information technology certification.
  • $175,256 for the Recycling and Reuse Center (flat funding)
  • $125,302 for the Real Estate Education program (flat funding)
  • $1,066,419 for Economic Development at UNI
    This is an increase of nearly $500,000 to be used for:
    • The Institute for Decision Making
    • Metal Casting Center
    • MyEntre.Net
    • Economic Gardening
  • $900,000 from the Regents Innovation Fund to support
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Business Expansion
    • Regional Development
  • $1 million for UNI’s Metal Casting Center
    The funding through the Iowa Economic Development Authority is for a 3D printer at Cedar Valley Techworks.
  • $1.5 million for planning money for the renovation of the Schindler Education Center

The budget has now been submitted to the Governor, who has 30 days to sign or veto. This funding would not have been possible without the leadership and advocacy of our local legislative delegation. Please reach out to them and express your gratitude.

The other significant legislation this session that will impact UNI is HF 215, Education Reform. Key components as they relate to UNI include:

  • $1 million for a Teach Iowa student teaching pilot project
    The Department of Education will submit a request for proposal for a year-long student teaching pilot project in collaboration with one public and one private institution offering teacher preparation programs.
  • Teach Iowa scholar program
    A program established to provide scholar grants to applicants who meet the following criteria:
    • Exits a teacher preparation program in the top 25 percent academically
    • Prepares to teach in fields including but not limited to mathematics, English as a second language, special education, or a hard to staff subject identified by the department.
      Recipients are eligible for up to $20 thousand over a five year period.
  • The University of Northern Iowa will also have a seat on two new commissions
    • A Council on Educator Development
      To conduct a study and make recommendations regarding a statewide teacher evaluation system and performance review requirements.
    • A Commission on Educator Leadership and Compensation
  • The Department of Education will establish an Assessment Task Force to recommend a statewide assessment of student progress aligned to the Iowa Common Core.

The Governor also has 30 days to sign or veto HF 215 Education Reform. Thank you to Dean Watson and our College of Education for your attention to this legislation.

Ben Allen

Budget Update

May 16, 2013

Education Appropriations

The Republican controlled House and Democratically controlled Senate have reached an agreement on the Education Appropriations budget bill known as HF 604.  The bill has been approved by both the House and Senate must now be signed by the Governor. 

It includes:

  •          $2.1 million increase in general state aid for UNI (a 2.6% increase) 
  •          $5.2 million for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education) 
  •          $175,256 for UNI’s Recycling Reuse Technology Transfer Center (flat funding) 
  •          $125,302 for UNI’s Real Estate Education program (flat funding)

The compromise does not include the $4 million dollar special appropriation for UNI, which was the second year of a three year $12 million dollar request.  However legislative leaders assure me that UNI will receive additional funding in another bill.  We continue to receive strong support at the Statehouse and appreciate their efforts to find additional resources for the university.

The compromise package does not provide any for financial aid, previously known as tuition set aside.  However the House and Senate have agreed to allow the public universities to use our state appropriations to provide financial aid to Iowa students who demonstrate need.   This means tuition dollars will not be used to provide financial aid but will instead be used to provide a world class education for our students. We are pleased the Legislature recognized the importance of providing need-based financial aid to Iowa students.

Economic Development Appropriations

Funding for UNI’s economic development programs has now been moved out of the Economic Development budget and into the Education Appropriations budget.   The compromise provides $1,066,419 for UNI; an increase of nearly $500,000.  This includes funding for:  

  •          The Institute for Decision Making
  •           Metal Casting Center
  •           MyEntre.Net
  •           Economic Gardening  

The proposed increase is due to the great work UNI is doing in these fields and the recognition of this work at the Statehouse.   

Student Leaders advocate for UNI

May 8, 2013

I would like to extend a special thank you to our NISG leaders for writing to key legislators on behalf of UNI.  This letter was emailed to House and Senate leaders, our local delegation, and the ten members assigned to the Education Appropriations conference committee.  Once again our students make us proud.

On behalf of the Northern Iowa Student Government:

We join the Iowa Board of Regents and President Allen in supporting an additional two million dollars of supplemental funding for the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) beyond the appropriated four million dollars. The additional two million dollars will allow the university to fund academic programs and remain financially stable, both of which the students at UNI greatly deserve. 

UNI is one of the best academic institutions in Iowa, providing a unique learning environment focused on education rather than research. The great programs at UNI, combined with a smaller faculty to student ratio (16:1), help attract prospective students to the university.

Unlike other universities in Iowa, 92% of the student population at UNI is comprised of Iowans, causing revenue from tuition to be much lower than that of our sister schools. Beyond already having a smaller budget, UNI’s budget was cut by 24 million dollars over the past four years. To help alleviate potential problems related to such large cuts, the legislature graciously provided UNI an additional four million dollar special appropriation, as recommended by the Iowa Board of Regents.

In light of the Iowa Board of Regents-imposed tuition freeze, the upcoming academic year brings a new set of challenges.  UNI does not have a large out-of-state population to generate additional necessary revenue.   The members of Northern Iowa Student Government recognized these financial constraints and even spoke against the tuition freeze last fall.  The university has already cut and restructured programs to move toward a more fiscally-responsible future and additional cuts would have an adverse effect on the quality of education at UNI. 
For these reasons we ask you to consider increasing this year’s special appropriation for UNI by two million dollars. 

Touring UNI's Metal Casting Center

April 19, 2013

Representative Walt Rogers tours UNI's Metal Casting Center.  

Representative Walt Rogers tours UNI's Metal Casting Center. The Iowa Legislature is considering a million dollar investment that would allow the center to purchase a new 3-dimensional printer in collaboration with the Advanced Manufacturing Center located in the Cedar Valley TechWorks. 

Senate Education Budget

April 15, 2013

Majority Democrats in the Iowa Senate are moving this week on the higher education budget and once again there is good news for UNI.  

Their plan includes: 

  • $6.1 million increase in general state aid for UNI (a 2.6% increase plus $4 million dollar special appropriation) 
  • $5.7 million for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education) 
  • $10 million for need-based financial aid for in-state undergraduate students

This means both the House and Senate have proposed the necessary funding to allow the Board of Regents to freeze resident undergraduate tuition in the fall.  That’s particularly important for UNI when you consider more 92 percent of our students come from within the state. 

That said there are some differences between the two chambers.   Senate Democrats recommend spending a million dollars more on STEM than the Governor or the House.  They want to use the additional money to open Microsoft IT academies in schools across the state.  

The House and Senate must also iron out their differences on financial aid.  The House did not including funding for tuition assistance in its budget, while the Senate provided $10 million dollars.  If the Legislature eventually approves funding for financial aid, the Board of Regents has vowed to reduce tuition by the same amount the following year. 

Finally neither the House nor Senate budget provides an increase for UNI’s Real Estate program and Recycling and Reuse Technology Transfer Center. We had hoped these programs would also receive the 2.6 percent increase and will continue to urge legislators to approve additional funding.

New UNI leader visits Iowa Capitol

March 25, 2013

Last week I had the pleasure of introducing UNI’s incoming President William Ruud at the Statehouse. We sat down with all six members of our local delegation, the majority and minority leaders of both the House and Senate, and several key committee chairs. We also met with the Governor’s Budget Director David Roederer and Department of Management Fiscal Policy Analyst Joel Lunde. 

Throughout the meetings I was continuously impressed with Dr. Ruud's enthusiasm and knowledge of UNI. More importantly legislators were impressed and shared with me their excitement of our incoming leader. Dr. Ruud meanwhile said he was pleasantly surprised to learn how much support for UNI there is at the Statehouse. That is a testament to the reputation of our faculty, staff, and students. 

Incoming UNI President Bill Ruud visits the Iowa Capitol

Clockwise from bottom: Jeneane Beck, Senator Brian Schoenjahn (D) Arlington, incoming President Bill Ruud, Senator Bill Dotzler (D) Waterloo, Senator Jeff Danielson (D) Waterloo

Senate Economic Development Budget

March 14, 2013

The Senate Economic Development Committee approved a budget today that dramatically increases funding for UNI’s programming.  The Senate proposes $500,000 more for UNI than the Governor recommended.  This money would be dedicated to Economic Gardening, a program that focuses on growth of stage II Iowa companies.  While this budget is far from settled but it a great starting point for negotiations with the House, whose members will announce their own economic development spending plan soon.    

The economic development budget includes funding for the Institute for Decision Making, Metal Casting Center and MyEntre.Net.  These programs assist community planning groups, foundries, and small businesses across the state.  The Senate's bill will expand UNI’s role in serving small Iowa businesses by investing in economic gardening to provide extensive assistance with advanced market research and tailored growth strategies.

The Senate bill also provides $5 million for the Regents Innovation Fund, $2 million more than the Governor recommended.   The Regents Innovation Fund helps the universities leverage private and federal funds resulting in expanded economic development initiatives and enhanced programming for technology transfer, business incubation, and entrepreneurship.

Once the House economic development budget is unveiled, we will work with both parties to find common ground.

UNI Economic Development

L-R  Chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee Bill Dotzler (D) Waterloo,

Representative Anesa Kajtazovic (D) Waterloo, Representative Bob Kressig (D) Cedar Falls,

UNI Regional Business Center Director Maureen Collins Williams, 

UNI Business and Community Services Executive Director Randy Pilkington

UNI students visit the Statehouse

March 13, 2013

About a dozen UNI students traveled to Des Moines for Regents day at the Iowa Capitol and once again they made us proud. They spoke with legislators about why they chose to attend UNI and why investing in their education benefits the entire state.  The students highlighted UNI’s personal instruction, variety of programs, and friendly campus.   While UNI is the smallest of the state’s three public universities, it is routinely the best represented on Regents day and this year was no exception.  Thank you to the students who traveled to Des Moines and shared their stories with state lawmakers.

Representative Bob Kressig (D) Cedar Falls, Representative Deborah Berry (D) Waterloo, Jordan Bancroft Smithe, KaLeigh White, Blake Findley, Katie White, Eric Boisen, Wes Jones, Representative Anesa Kajtazovic (D) Waterloo

L-R Representative Bob Kressig (D) Cedar Falls, Representative Deborah Berry (D) Waterloo, Jordan Bancroft Smithe, KaLeigh White, Blake Findley, Katie White, Eric Boisen, Wes Jones, Representative Anesa Kajtazovic (D) Waterloo

UNI Students with Senator Breitbach

Tyler Moran, Senator Michael Breitbach (R) Strawberry Point, Tom Madsen, Stef McGraw

Students with Senator Danielson

Eric Boisen, Bryant Hickie, Senator Jeff Danielson (D) Waterloo, Tyler Moran, Stef McGraw, Katie Evans, Jordan Leckband

Students with Senator Guth

Jordan Leckband, Senator Dennis Guth (R) Klemme, KaLeigh White

UNI students with Senator Liz Mathis

Tom Madsen, Senator Liz Mathis (D) Cedar Rapids, Stef McGraw, Tyler Moran

Students with Senator Rogers

Katie White, Wes Jones, Blake Findley, Representative Walt Rogers (R) Cedar Falls

 UNI Students with Senator Sinclair

Ryan Moon, Senator Amy Sinclair (R) Allerton, Tom Madsen 

House Republican education budget

March 13, 2013

House Republicans have unveiled the details of their education budget.

Like the Governor, they propose a 2.6 percent increase in general state aid for the three public universities as well as an additional $4 million for UNI.  This means UNI would receive a 7.5 percent increase next year.   

The House budget also follows the Governor’s recommendation of $4.7 million for STEM, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.  President Ben Allen co-chairs the STEM Executive Advisory Council and UNI administers the program, so we are pleased with the continued support.

However, the House education budget fails to provide an increase for UNI’s Real Estate program and Recycling and Reuse Technology Transfer Center.   We had hoped these programs would also receive the 2.6 percent increase and will continue to urge legislators to approve additional funding. 

House Republicans also declined to provide funding for need based financial aid for students. The universities currently provide this assistance, but the Board of Regents promised to roll back tuition if the state began to cover the cost. 

We are now waiting for Senate Democrats to unveil their education budget.   Once they do, the two parties will begin working on a compromise between the two plans. 

House and Senate release preliminary budget numbers

March 1, 2013

The House and Senate released preliminary budget targets this week. While it's just the first step in the budget process, there is good news in the numbers.

House targets

The overall House Republican target is $6.4 billion, a three percent increase over last year. It includes a 3.9 percent increase ($34 million) in the education budget. While we don't have any details yet regarding Regents funding, the House Appropriations chair Chuck Soderberg made some very positive comments in the Des Moines Register.

"It (our budget) includes a 2 percent (or $74 million) increase in additional state aid for K-12 schools, as well as a $16.1 million increase in funding for the Regents universities and another $10 million for community colleges. The additional Regents funding will be enough to ensure tuition at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa is frozen at current-year levels," Soderberg said.

The House budget also includes a 19 percent ($7 million) increase in the economic development budget. The committee chair Dave Deyoe says it reflects their decision to move the $3 million Regents Innovation Fund into the economic development budget. This is very good news because last year the funding came out of the RIF (Rebuild Infrastructure) budget and we were told it was one-time money.

Senate targets

Senate Democrats propose a $6.9 billion state budget, an 11 percent increase over FY13. It includes a $50 million increase in the education budget and about a $1 million increase for economic development. No additional details were provided.

For point of reference, the Governor's state budget proposal is about $6.5 billion.

For more information, view the House and Senate budget spreadsheets.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture visits UNI’s Tallgrass Prairie Center

March 1, 2013

Ag Secretary Bill Northey accepted an invitation to tour UNI’s Tallgrass Prairie Center to learn about how UNI can assist the state deal with nutrient management.  Center Director Daryl Smith says reconstructing prairie in strategically placed locations within watersheds to take advantage of the water retention capabilities of prairie vegetation could effectively slow and/or reduce outflow of water and reduce erosion. 

Northey and Smith discuss the native seed cleaning capability of the Westrup Air/Screen Cleaner used by the Tallgrass Prairie Center Left: Northey and Smith discuss the native seed cleaning capability of the state-of-the-art Westrup Air/Screen Cleaner used by the Tallgrass Prairie Center in their Natural Selections Program for production of Iowa Source-Identified Seed for prairie reconstruction and roadside plantings. There have been some advancements over the turn of the 19th century "Clipper Cleaner" fanning mills for seed cleaning. Smith indicated that they still occasionally use a Clipper Cleaner in the early stages of native seed cleaning.

Below: Smith describes some of the challenges in using "classic" machinery: John Deere Model 950 tractor (1976) and Hege Model 12 plot combine (1978).

Smith describes some of the challenges in using "classic" equipment

A tuition freeze would benefit UNI students

February 28, 2013

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, is committed to keeping tuition affordable for Iowa students. If our public universities receive a 2.6 percent increase in state funding as well as a $4 million special appropriation for UNI, the Regents have vowed to freeze tuition for resident undergraduate students next fall.

This is particularly important to UNI undergraduates when you consider:

  • 92 percent of UNI students are from Iowa
  • 75 percent of UNI students demonstrate financial need
  • 25 percent of UNI students are first-generation college students

UNI is doing its part to contain costs and reduce student indebtedness by offering additional loan counseling and financial literacy programs. As a result, the university has helped decrease UNI student loan indebtedness by 7.6 percent. Today's UNI undergraduate students average $23,575 in student debt.

Please contact your state senator or representative and ask them to support the Board of Regents funding request. A 2.6 percent increase means UNI resident undergraduates will not face a tuition increase for the first time in 30 years.

UNI Day at the Capitol

February 11, 2013

The first annual UNI Day at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines was a great success.  Faculty, staff, and students did a great job showcasing the wonderful programs, departments and organizations at the university.  The day began with eight members of the Men’s Glee Club signing the morning prayer in both the House and Senate chambers. 

Men's Glee Club sing morning prayer in House Chamber 

L-R Jordan Leckband, Henry Nguyen, Bradley Boyd, Jaime Yowler, Logan Mundt, Eric Boisen, Caleb Claus, Derek Bertram, and Jon O'Leary sing Paul Tchesnokoff's Salvation is Created.

We got a great picture of the UNI graduates currently serving in the Iowa Legislature. 

Cedar Valley legislators and UNI officials pose with TC

L-R front row Rep Anesa Kajtazovic (D) Waterloo, Sen Rita Hart (D) Wheatland,

2nd row President Ben Allen, Rep Curt Hanson (D) Fairfield,  Marti Anderson (D) Des Moines, Rep Mark Costello (R) Imogene, Rep Walt Rogers (R) Cedar Falls,  3rd row Rep Cindy Winckler (D) Davenport, Rep Bob Kressig (D) Cedar Falls, Rep David Jacoby (D) Coralville, TC, Sen Jeff Danielson (D) Waterloo,  4th row Rep Quentin Stanerson (R) Center Point, Sen Brian Schoenjahn (D) Arlington,  Rep Beth Wessel- Kroeschell (D) Ames,

(Not pictured Sen Rick Bertrand (R) Sioux City, Sen Bill Dotzler (D) Waterloo, Rep Chris Hagenow (R) Windsor Heights, Sen Janet Petersen (D) Des Moines, Rep Sandy Salmon (R) Janesville)     

Dozens of legislators as well as the Governor and Lieutenant Governor stopped by the interactive displays. 

Jeff Danielson reviews dsplay of Hispanic Latino Student Union

Senator Jeff Danielson (D) Waterloo

 Representative Bob Kressig (D) Cedar Falls with David O'Shields of UNI's Tallgrass Prairie Center

Representative Bob Kressig (D) Cedar Falls with David O'Shields of UNI's Tallgrass Prairie Center

 Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds with TC

Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds with TC

STEM day at the Capitol

February 6, 2013

This year’s event featured 40 exhibits representing STEM education in the schools, businesses, and non-profits like the Girl Scouts. 

Representative Sharon Steckman (D) Mason City

Last October The Governor’s STEM Advisory Council announced funding for more than 800 STEM projects across the state, including First LEGO League and KidWind.  The Governor is asking state legislators to continue funding STEM at the same level next year.  The $4.7 million will be used to continue to provide great programming in previously underserved areas.

Members of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council; Co-chair and UNI President Ben Allen, Senator Mark Chelgren (R) Ottumwa, Representative Josh Byrnes (R) Osage, Governor Terry Branstad, Representative Sharon Steckman (D) Mason City, and STEM Council Executive Director Jeff Weld

Members of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council; Co-chair and UNI President Ben Allen, Senator Mark Chelgren (R) Ottumwa, Representative Josh Byrnes (R) Osage, Governor Terry Branstad, Representative Sharon Steckman (D) Mason City, and STEM Council Executive Director Jeff Weld  

Great start to the 2013 Legislative Session

January 15, 2013

Governor Terry Branstad delivers Condition of the State

Governor Terry Branstad today proposed a 2.6 % increase in general education funding for the University of Northern Iowa.  This matches the request by the Board of Regents and would mean an additional $2 million for the University next year.  The Governor also recommended another $4 million special appropriation (2nd year of a 3 year request) in recognition of UNI’s reliance on in-state tuition.  This is great news for the university.  If this level of funding is adopted by the full legislature it will allow UNI to continue to lead the nation in pre K-12 education, enhance undergraduate education, and improve student success. 

The Governor is also maintaining his commitment to STEM, the state’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education; providing $4.7 million in funding, the same as this year.  President Ben Allen co-chairs the STEM Executive Advisory Council and UNI administers the program so we are thrilled with the continued support.

The Governor’s budget recommended flat funding for UNI’s Real Estate program, Recycling and Reuse Technology Transfer Center, Institute for Decision Making, Metal Casting Center and MyEntre.Net.  However we continue to hope the legislature will approve an increase.  Finally the Governor provided full support for the Regents Innovation fund which is critical to UNI’s economic development programs. 

This is a great start to the legislative session and we are thankful for Governor Branstad’s continued commitment to the public universities.  Our focus now turns to the House and Senate, as leaders in each chamber will release their own budget proposals later this month.  Please continue to advocate on behalf of UNI and consider emailing or calling your local legislator.   You can find your new Senator or Representative on the Iowa General Assembly’s website.

Remember you can always email me with any questions or concerns at and please sign up for Panther Caucus on UNI’s Alumni Association webpage.