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Regents could review admission index, again

Consulting group asks if 'regent admission index' is viable mechanism for determining success

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IOWA CITY — A Board of Regents scoring system used to assess applicants to Iowa’s public universities could be reassessed — and perhaps revamped — as part of efficiency measures underway across all three campuses.

A recommendation to evaluate whether the “regent admission index,” which has been used for six years to determine automatic admission for in-state students, “remains a viable mechanism” for assessing student success is among dozens of efficiency suggestions the board is considering related to enrollment management and e-Learning at University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa.

Pappas Consulting Group, a firm the board is paying $604,000 to conduct certain aspects of its sweeping efficiency review, presented those recommendations to the Board of Regents this week.

Its suggestion that the board “determine whether the regent admission index (RAI) remains a viable mechanism for determining success” is related to the consultant’s findings of peer institutions for each university. All three campuses are compared with a peer group of universities from across the country, and those comparisons turned up challenges for Iowa’s schools related to number of student applicants, yield, ACT scores, 4-year graduation rates, and indebtedness, according to Pappas.

The suggestion to assess the scoring system comes just months after the board — based on an earlier efficiency review suggestion — revised the index to provide an alternate option for students without class rank.

“We understand that the RAI has undergone several revisions in recent years and that the board office has had to make revisions based on ongoing changes to such factors as high school grade point average or class rank,” according to a Pappas report, which suggested a study “to determine how best to meet the demand for admission to the three public universities as members of a state ‘system.’”

It’s unclear what another review of the regent admission index might look like, but officials said a committee that made the earlier revision could undertake the task.

The six-year-old index was created to provide a standard method for offering in-state students automatic admission to the three public universities. Under the most up-to-date model, Iowa high school graduates who earn a score of at least 245 qualify. Those with lesser scores can be considered on an individual basis.

The index considers factors like ACT or SAT scores, high school rank, high school grade-point average, and number of completed high school courses. The board’s recent revision provides an alternate for the growing number of students who come from schools without class rank.

• Other recommendations Pappas made related to enrollment management at the three universities include:

• Undertaking a statewide strategic planning process taking into account projected demographics of high school graduates in Iowa;

• Assessing ways to more effectively leverage programs that reduce the time it takes for students to earn degrees;

• Advocating for aid programs and merit scholarships;

• Increasing retention and graduation rates.

And developing strategic enrollment management plans and performance metrics “that are germane to the specific mission of their institution.”

In its report, Pappas Consulting referenced a performance-based funding model proposed by the board that would have tied a majority of state allocations to in-state tuition — had the model been approved by lawmakers, which it was not.

“The notion that all Iowa public universities be solely or predominantly Iowa-serving is not possible given the Iowa public school grade 12 enrollments that have declined since (2010-2011) and are projected to remain flat,” according to the report. “Indeed, most public AAU institutions have significant numbers of out of-state and international students, while regional institutions are intended to serve the in-state population.”

Recommendations Pappas made related to e-Learning include:

• Establishing goals at each university for considerable program expansion, enrollment growth, and revenue increases;

• Seeking new opportunities for distance education and e-Learning;

• Expanding the marketing of online and distance education programs;

• And increasing cross-collaboration among the universities to insure maximum program reach and minimum program duplication.

• The Board of Regents this week also received a report from another of its efficiency consultants — Ad Astra, which is being paid $100,000 — related to recommendations to improve space utilization and course scheduling.

The board in January also hired Huron Consulting Group to help improve sourcing and procurement practices on campus and Chazey Partners to provide expertise related to human resources, finance, and information technology recommendations.

The board is paying Chazey $550,000 for its work and $895,000 to Huron.

Deloitte Consulting LLC, which conducted the first phase of the regents’ efficiency review, was paid $3.5 million.

Those payments bring the total cost of the regents’ efficiency review to $5.65 million to date.

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