WATERLOO — A Republican candidate for governor Tuesday got a close-up look at Hawkeye Community College’s industrial programs.
Ron Corbett talked manufacturing with staff and administrators as he toured Hawkeye’s CNC machining, welding and power mechanics labs. Prior to the tour, he met with President Linda Allen and a number of her cabinet members.
“I’m doing a tour to all of the community colleges as part of my outreach program,” said Corbett, emphasizing the importance of understanding what’s happening at the educational institutions as the state’s leader.
Following a walk-through of Buchanan and Butler halls, he praised the college’s ability to meet industry standards in training despite equipment expenses. “I’m impressed that the school’s been able to have modern equipment to teach students with.”
The former Cedar Rapids mayor is challenging Gov. Kim Reynolds in the June 5 primary. He was mayor for eight years and a member of the Legislature for 13 years prior to that.
“I’m impressed with how embedded Hawkeye is with the community,” said Corbett, citing the college’s success at placing students who finish its manufacturing programs. “They really do have their finger on the pulse of the communities that they serve.”
He would like to see Iowa’s community colleges take a more central role in job training and work force development efforts across the state. “So, I’m really concerned about the mid-year budget cuts last year,” he said, as well as cuts proposed for this fiscal year. Last month, the Iowa Senate proposed a cut of $5.4 million for community colleges while Reynolds proposed a $1.8 million cut due to state revenues coming in below projections.
“This is really a mismanagement issue,” said Corbett. “I think these mid-year budget cuts are ill-advised.”
He had proposed dealing with the funding problems earlier, but said officials ignored him.
“Last year, I called for a special session to take care of the budget issue at the beginning of the budget year,” said Corbett. He would like to see cuts to the bureaucracy in Des Moines rather than taking money away from community colleges and state universities.
Growing tuition will be the end result of the cuts, he suggested.
“You see in every report from Future Ready Iowa (task force) that 70 percent of jobs in the future are going to require two-year degrees or more,” said Corbett. Tuition should not be “so high that it becomes a barrier to people furthering their education.”
He is continuing on to visits at community colleges in Fort Dodge and Ottumwa this week and was in Peosta last week as part of the effort to stop at all 15 in the state.
“This is pretty much my life, traveling the state of Iowa in my vehicle,” said Corbett, noting he puts in about 1,000 miles per week.