Hatch proposal aims at college affordability

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 11:00 a.m. CDT

WATERLOO (MCT) — In between work at the Iowa Capitol, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Jack Hatch has been touring the state, visiting college campuses to get feedback on his proposals to make college more affordable.

That tour brought him to the University of Northern Iowa last week.

“I can only tell you that when I was going through college, I could work a part-time job and work during the summer and pretty much have most of my college tuition paid for. Today, you can’t do that,” said Hatch, 63. “The gap between how much you could earn during the summer and during the school year and the tuition is growing, and it becomes a real disincentive for kids and families to decide whether or not they should go on to college or higher education or even vocational school.”

Hatch’s two main proposals for college affordability are to set up a resource center to help students interested in graduating early find where required classes are available throughout the state and a low-interest student loan program funded through the state.

A third piece of the puzzle is promoting financial literacy -- something UNI is already doing, and it has fewer students who default on their student loans. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who is running for a sixth term, also mentioned promoting financial literacy in his Condition of the State address last month.

Hatch acknowledges his proposals are a small part of making college affordable. But he said it shows a willingness to lead on the issue.

“It’s the difference between the way we think. I want this to be viewed as the difference between how Gov. Branstad thinks and I think on the issue of college debt,” Hatch said.

Hatch criticized the governor for only addressing one part of the problem by urging a tuition freeze for the second year in a row at the state’s three public universities. Hatch said his own proposals, however, would also help students at community college and private universities.

He also said he would provide more leadership on UNI’s lower state appropriation. Hatch said he would propose a different funding formula that didn’t “shortchange” UNI.

Branstad did request an additional appropriation for UNI in his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year to make up for the different funding level for the Cedar Falls college.

The governor also addressed more than financial literacy and freezing tuition in his address last month. He said the state increased financial support for community colleges, increased the Iowa Tuition Grant for students who attend private colleges and provided targeted support for those who enter certain professions.

Hatch said he’s gotten good input from students on the tour of the state’s college campuses, including a proposal to freeze tuition for the duration of a student’s four-year education.

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©2014 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

MCT Information Services

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