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BVU prez pleads for community help to fight off tuition grant cuts

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Buena Vista University President Fred Moore is taking an unusual step in hopes of heading off projected funding cuts to the Iowa Tuition Grant program - assistance for needy students that helps make education possible for over 1,500 students at the Storm Lake private university.

Moore has issued a letter to Storm Lake business owners, many of which benefit from BVU relationships, student workers and interns. Moore hopes that the business community will respond with letters of support urging state legislators and the governor to make use of federal stimulus funds to restore $5 million that has been proposed in cuts from the need-based Iowa Tuition Grant program.

"Simply put, this grant helps make a BV education possible for over 1,560 students," Moore said. Support needs to be heard fast, before the cuts are finalized, college leaders say.

With a relatively needy population, BVU has more students who receive the ITG funds than any other member school in the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Over 99 percent of the students of the Storm Lake university qualify for some form of aid, and the university itself gives out $12 million in assistance to its students. More than a third of them represent the first generation in their families to attend college.

BVU students currently receive $3.34 million in help from the Iowa Tuition Grants, making the issue one of "supreme importance" to the institution, Moore notes.

The BVU president said that education leaders are well aware that the economic downturn has had a dampening effect on state revenues, forcing the real need for some painful cuts to many state programs. The 10 percent proposed slashes in Iowa Tuition Grants would take a $300,000+ bite out of BVU students' education funds, and about $5 million for the 17,000 students utilizing the program statewide.

"We must make sure that our elected representatives hear our voices loud and clear," Moore is telling local business leaders, urging letters to arrive in Des Moines by the end of this week.

The Iowa Tuition Grant program was established in 1969 to help students choose a college that best suits their needs without financial worries.

Students receive the funds directly, rather than the college they attend - if students move, the money goes with them.

While ITG funding has increased over the years, it has not kept up with the subsidies that state makes for education at the public universities, according to the Association of Independent College and Universities - taxpayer support reduces the tuition costs by almost $12,000 per year for students at ISU, U of I and UNI.

Cuts have been made for state funding to regent universities and community colleges that would be offset somewhat by use of federal stimulus dollars, but no such relief has been committed to date for the private colleges, Moore said.

The Iowa Tuition Grants have been a conservative and effective program over the years, capped at a maximum of $4,000 for at least nine years, Moore said. BVU is not promoting an increase, but preservation of the student aid at current levels.

There were 578 ITG recipients on the BVU campus for 2007-08, out of 891 Iowa resident students who applied for aid. Another 987 students at the BVU Professional Center and Online programs across Iowa depend on the grants.

Moore suggests that businesses that appreciate BVU let their lawmakers know that if they cut the appropriations, the grant will decrease and make it "incredibly difficult" for many BVU students to continue their educations.

"All Iowa students need your help and support, not just those who attend public universities and community colleges," Moore suggests.

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