University of Iowa reinstates scholarships to undergraduates

The University of Iowa has decided to reinstate scholarships to undergraduates who were informed recently that they would lose promised funding. I enclose below an e-mail many students received this morning from President Bruce Harreld.

Two students had already filed class-action lawsuits over the university’s decision to terminate five scholarships in order to save some $4.3 million. A trial pitting the university against children of alumni would be a public relations nightmare. In addition, Harreld would have had to explain under oath why university officials wrongly claimed last week to have warned current scholarship holders that awards were contingent on state funding levels.

In today’s message to students, Harreld noted,

Over the past few days we heard from many families who were unaware this was a renewable scholarship reliant on state support. While this was not a need-based award, we also heard from families who budgeted for college based on the scholarships and feared financial hardship with the programs’ elimination.

The University of Iowa takes its relationship with students and alumni very seriously and, therefore, will honor the awards previously made to those currently receiving this scholarship. […]

Moving forward we must continue to place a priority on need-based and merit-based awards, which is why the Iowa Heritage Award will no longer be offered to new students who start at the university in 2018.

I also enclose below a statement released by the university.

UPDATE: Added comments from James Larew, the attorney representing plaintiff Jenna Pokorny.

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Read the first lawsuit over revoked University of Iowa scholarships

University of Iowa undergraduate Ben Muller filed a class action lawsuit today in Polk County District Court, charging that the university “revoked its scholarship offers to Plaintiff and the putative class without warning, without due process, and without just compensation.” Muller is among 3,015 undergraduates who learned last week that the University of Iowa was discontinuing five scholarship programs to help cover losses in state funding. Scroll down to read the full seven-page court filing, which alleges multiple violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In a news release also enclosed below, attorney Steve Wandro described the university’s action as “not only immoral, but illegal as well.” Jon Muller, the plaintiff’s father, said, “What has occurred here is insane. My son’s decision to attend the University of Iowa was partially based on his being awarded a scholarship.”

Attorneys have scheduled meetings in West Des Moines and Iowa City this Saturday for “students, parents of students, and interested alumni to discuss their concerns and legal options.” The press release includes details on meeting locations and times.

The plaintiff is asking for a jury trial. A Facebook page created to support a class-action filing has nearly 250 likes.

My hunch is that University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld and his advisers will come up with a face-saving way out of this mess before Muller and other members of his class have their day in court. A trial pitting the university against students, most of whom are children of alumni, would generate massive terrible publicity.

After Harreld figures out how to cover the $4,343,699 the university planned to save by canceling the current students’ scholarships, he needs to deal with an extra $1,237,500 reduction in state funding before June 30. The Branstad administration announced additional mid-year cuts to higher education last Friday.

UPDATE: Added below details on a second class-action lawsuit that undergraduate Jenna Pokorny filed in Johnson County District Court on February 27.

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3,000 University of Iowa students will pay the price for Republican budget policies

See important update below: Jon Muller questions whether the University of Iowa “committed an act of scholarship fraud.”

Three weeks after Governor Terry Branstad signed into law large mid-year budget cuts for Iowa’s state universities, some 3,015 incoming or current students at the University of Iowa learned that they will be picking up part of the tab.

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Republicans deliver worst month ever to Iowa students and educators

For all their talk about helping Iowa provide a “world class” and “globally competitive” education, Iowa Republicans are unwilling to provide the resources public schools need to keep up with rising costs.

And for all their talk about getting “better teachers in the classroom” and giving “hardworking teachers … all the tools necessary to succeed,” Iowa Republicans seem determined to discourage people from pursuing a teaching career in this state.

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Will ISU's president ever fully cover the cost of his personal medical travel?

Six weeks after Iowa State University released the Internal Audit report on ISU Flight Service and University Owned Aircraft, I’ve made surprisingly little headway toward filling in the gaps.

Not for lack of trying.

The Iowa Board of Regents and ISU have withheld information that should have been included in a “comprehensive audit” purporting to cover every flight President Steven Leath has taken on a university airplane.

For today, I will focus on one issue: ISU staff’s refusal to tell me whether Leath has reimbursed the ISU Foundation for the full cost of flights to Rochester, Minnesota in July 2015. The matter raises questions about the foundation’s compliance with federal tax code and the accuracy of ISU’s official narrative.

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The 16 Bleeding Heartland posts that were most fun to write in 2016

Freedom to chase any story that captures my attention is the best part of running this website. A strong sense of purpose carries me through the most time-consuming projects. But not all work that seems worthwhile is fun. Classic example: I didn’t enjoy communicating with the white nationalist leader who bankrolled racist robocalls to promote Donald Trump shortly before the Iowa caucuses.

Continuing a tradition I started last year, here are the Bleeding Heartland posts from 2016 that have a special place in my heart. Not all of them addressed important Iowa political news, but all were a joy to write.

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