Investing in Iowa community colleges
As a former teacher and coach, and the only Governor in the nation who has taught in a classroom in the last 25 years, I am deeply committed to our community college system.
In fact, I have a portrait in my office of former Governor Harold Hughes who helped start our terrific community college system more than 40 years ago.
Our community colleges are more, not less, important to the vitality of our state than they were when Governor Hughes led Iowans to make their initial investment into today's community college system. For students of all ages, community colleges provide an affordable entry point into post-secondary educational opportunities. The critical link between the skilled jobs of the future and vital, growing Iowa industries can frequently be found in the classrooms of our community colleges.
Given the importance that our community colleges now play in our state's culture and economy, the Culver-Judge Administration has budgeted record amounts of financial support for these important institutions.
In 2007, I signed a budget that included $174 million dollars in state funding for the community colleges, the largest amount ever.
The 2008 budget I presented to the Legislature includes an increase of nearly 3% above this amount. My current proposal provides a new record amount of $177 million next fiscal year.
Working with Republicans and Democrats, I am confident we will once again be able to increase our investment in Iowa's community colleges.
So, the two year total of more than $350 million I've advocated for represents an 11% increase in funding levels for the Iowa Community College system since I took office in January of 2007. This is also nearly $40 million dollars more than the community colleges received just five years ago.
In addition, in an effort to make college more affordable, last year I urged the Legislature to create the $1.5 million "All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship."
As a result, nearly 200 students, the majority of which are enrolled in Iowa community colleges, are now going to college and receiving a financial scholarship of roughly $6,000.
Lt. Governor Judge and I took office with the ambitious goal of supporting the community college system at the highest levels in state history. Even as difficult budget decisions are required, we have met this goal, and we will continue to work to support, strengthen, and invest in our great community colleges.
* Chet Culver will be writing a monthly column for Pilot readers.