Higher education

Interest in new Iowa State degree programs surging

'The program is successful but is severely under-resourced'

Curtiss Hall (left) and the Campanile (right) on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Friday, July 31, 2015. The Board of Regents are on the ISU campus today to review four new programs. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Curtiss Hall (left) and the Campanile (right) on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Friday, July 31, 2015. The Board of Regents are on the ISU campus today to review four new programs. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Six years after the Board of Regents approved four new degree programs at Iowa State University, all have met enrollment expectations and — in some cases — far surpassed them, raising concerns about resources and space.

The board’s academic and student affairs committee will meet this afternoon on the ISU campus to review progress reports for the four degree programs. ISU’s Bachelor of Science Program in Event Management, Master of Engineering Program in Civil Engineering, Master of Engineering Program in Information Assurance, and Master of Engineering Program in Materials Science and Engineering all received approval in 2010.

According to fall 2015 headcounts, three of the four programs have surpassed projected enrollments, according to Board of Regents documents. That includes the undergraduate event management program, which reported an enrollment of 360 in the fall — more than 3.5 times the 100 students expected by fall 2015 at the program’s inception.

“The program is successful but is severely under-resourced in terms of staffing and space,” according to the report.

Those concerns mirror enrollment-vs.-resources issues facing Iowa State as a whole, as it continues to grow its student body year after year and has retained the label of biggest public university in Iowa since 2013.

In the fall, ISU reported a total enrollment of 36,001 — the largest in school history and an increase of nearly 3.7 percent over the previous year’s 34,732 count, which also set a record. Fall 2015 marked the seventh year of record enrollment and the ninth consecutive year of growth at Iowa State.

Over the last decade, Iowa State enrollment has surged 40 percent, and ISU President Steven Leath has pleaded with the state for more resources — saying the swell in students has stretched the institution’s resources to its limits.


According to this week’s report on ISU’s event management bachelor’s program, concerns include class sizes and room availability. The program review found “space impedes growth” and “student enrollment has outstripped resources.”

The review team suggested event management needs an additional faculty member dedicated to the program, which also needs its own space, according to the report.

They also suggested the program continue pursuing collaborations with other university programs and businesses around the state. On campus, it suggested synergies with the athletic department, student life, and food service operations. Academically, officials proposed the sociology, public relations, mass communications, and design departments for interdisciplinary collaboration.

“The program should reach out to the CVB, chamber of commerce, mayor’s office, and other entities that regularly organize events for members and residents,” according to the board’s report.

Interest in the event management program surged beyond expectations immediately, with 130 enrolled in 2011 — the first year students were admitted. That was more than five times the 25 expected, and numbers only continued to swell.

Although the new master’s degree programs are smaller in size, they too have grown beyond expectations. Actual enrollment in the Master of Engineering Program in Information Assurance for the fall was 50 — nearly double the 30 expected by that time, according to board documents.

Among concerns cited by the report are student demands that core courses be offered every semester.

“This requires resources that are not currently available,” according to the report. “The increased enrollment is also placing a burden on lab equipment.”

Recommendations include expanding the number and type of course offerings, including core courses and new ones focused on cyber, software, and web security.


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“In order to continue growing, the program needs a dedicated lab enforcement with a staff person,” according to the report.

As for the Master of Engineering Program in Materials Science and Engineering, actual enrollment numbers in 2015 reached 11 — nearly double the expected six. The report indicates a new professional adviser recently was hired to help students in the program and across the college, and additional part-time administrative support is needed.

Only the Master of Engineering Program in Civil Engineering was exactly where it expected to be by fall 2015 — with an enrollment of 29.

In looking ahead at state funding allocations for the next budget year, the Board of Regents in the fall asked for more than $20 million in new money for its institutions. That total included $8.2 million to help ISU accommodate its growth, $7.7 million to support University of Northern Iowa’s high percentage of lower-paying resident students, and $4.5 million to support faculty retention at University of Iowa.

But Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposed budget came in far below that — offering $8 million in new money to be split between the universities. The Legislature still is working through its funding priorities for the 2017 budget year.


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