As the spring academic semester approaches, Iowa State University has begun to feel the effects of the 35 million dollar higher education budget cut signed into effect by Governor Reynolds last March. Senate File 2117, passed 28-21 along party lines with independent legislators siding with the Democratic opposition, cut 20 million dollars from Iowa State’s 2018 budget alone. As a result of this bill, the university has implemented a number of measures to try to ease the budgetary pain.
The most notable of these efforts has been the first annual University Bake Sale, which happened last week. The proceeds of the event not only covered the entirety of the budget deficit, they also paid for salary increases for the 40% of university employees who are paid below the national average, infrastructure repairs for the 29% of university buildings and structures listed as “behind schedule for routine maintenance due to budgetary constraints,” scholarships for the thousands of Iowans who cannot afford higher education at ISU, and also a new bookshelf for the College of Human Sciences. In addition to these immediate benefits, the remainder of the bake sale revenues were placed in a fund that is expected to be able to cover pension payments for the next 50 years.
The total revenue of the bake sale, which was reportedly higher than the entire national GDP of Botswana, is a proof of concept for Iowa’s State Legislature, which has been saying for years that the only way to truly reap the benefits of a state funded higher education system is to starve it of cash until it comes up with radical new solutions to its budgetary woes.
“It worked out exactly as planned,” said state senator Chuck Todd, who was one of the sponsors of the bill. “By providing the incentive for our state-sponsored universities to behave according to the principles of the free market, we can ensure that they will operate as institutions of higher learning are supposed to: at the lowest possible standard, and, therefore, the lowest possible price to the taxpayer.”
Already, Iowa State’s administration is planning its next fundraising event: selling fruit. The proceeds are expected to allow the university to continue providing both heating and electricity to its students next winter.