Harkin Proposes Federal Funding for Higher Ed

Dec 4, 2014

Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus.
Credit michelec317

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says he wants states that increase funding to higher education to receive matching federal grants.

As part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Harkin has proposed the federal match range from 20 to 50 percent depending on the level of state support. The more states spend on higher education per student, the bigger the award. 

Harkin, who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, says during hearings on higher education, he became aware of a lack of state funding. He says students are burdened by loans taken out to supplement hikes in tuition and fees. 

"About 30 years ago, a student who came to the University of Iowa, say for example, brought about $1, and the state brought $3," Harkin says. "I think today, that same student brings $3, and the state brings $1."

The College Board reports the average net total for tuition and fees at four-year public institutions rose by 32 percent in the past decade. 

Harkin’s wife, Ruth, sits on the Iowa Board of Regents, the governing body for the state’s three public universities. Recently the board voted to freeze tuition rates for undergraduate in-state students for the third consecutive year, though the price tag for out-of-state students will increase.

The future of Harkin's proposal is in flux. The Democrat will retire at the end of January as control of the Senate switches to the GOP.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander will take over the education committee chairmanship. Alexander says he wants to “start from scratch” when it comes to the Higher Education Act.