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Regents seek advice in setting goals amid change

In the last strategic plan, UI met 6 of 7 benchmarks

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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa met or exceeded goals set for it in providing financial aid to in-state students, increasing graduation rates for Minorites and four-year students and expanding distance learning, records show.

The benchmarks are among seven that the Board of Regents established for Iowa’s three public universities in its five-year strategic plan, which expires in 2016.

Now the board is looking for companies interested in helping develop a 2016-2021 strategic plan that it says “must anticipate emerging factors, such as technology, demographic shifts, and globalization.”

“A critical component of the plan will address the possible impact of fluctuations in the system’s revenue sources, such as enrollment, the economy, and state support,” according to the board’s request for proposals, which went out Sept. 18 and requires responses by Monday.

Even though each university is accountable to the regent goals, the UI, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa have their own strategic plans, also about to expire.

At the UI, former President Sally Mason held off on starting a new one in light of her retirement and the impending arrival of a new president. Provost P. Barry Butler told The Gazette that administrators have talked with incoming President J. Bruce Harreld about their readiness to get started on a new plan.

“He gave me the green light to get going on conversations on plans,” Butler said.

Next week, at the regents meeting on the UI campus, staff will update the board on progress on the goals. Here’s what board documents show:

Goal 1: Regent universities should be affordable to all qualified Iowa residents.

The board is measuring success here by setting targets for aid provided to undergraduate Iowa residents with need at each institution.

The UI surpassed its goal of $13.8 million in the 2014-15 academic year by $1.9 million; Iowa State fell short of its goal of $20.7 million by $1.3 million; and UNI topped its goal of $5.9 million by $1.2 million.

The target for this category is to increase the amount of financial aid for undergraduate resident students who show need by 3 percent by 2016.

Goal 2: Universities should increase the degree attainment of minority students.

The board is measuring success by setting targets for six-year graduation rates for underrepresented students at each institution.

UI is the only institution above its target in this category — with a 65 percent graduation rate for minority students, topping its goal of 64.3 percent. ISU’s rate was 57.2 percent for the 2014-15 school year, under its goal of 64.7 percent. And UNI’s rate was 45 percent, under its target of 55.3 percent.

The hope for this goal is to close the gap in six-year graduation rates between minority students and nonminority students by 50 percent at each university by 2016.

Goal 3: Universities should increase undergraduate four-year graduation rates.

UI in the last academic year topped its goal of 51.1 percent by reaching 53.2 percent — its highest in recent history. UNI also surpassed its target by a narrow margin with 39.9 percent, over the 39.6 percent goal. ISU came in under its goal of 45.6 percent with 43.6 percent.

The goal aims to increase four-year graduation rates at each university to the median of its peer group or to 40 percent, whichever is greater, by 2016.

Goal 4: Universities should increase distance education opportunities, especially for non-traditional students.

The board is measuring success by setting targets for the number of students enrolled in distance education courses for credit.

All three universities met their marks in this category during the last academic year — with UI topping its 13,085 goal at 15,226; ISU besting its 6,116 goal with 8,360 students; and UNI barely passing its 8,610 target with 8,616.

The overall aim of this goal is to up the number of students enrolled in distance education courses at each school by 15 percent by 2016.

Goal 5: Universities should show that student outcome assessment programs actually help students achieve education goals.

The target for this goal was to develop student outcome assessment plans at each university for each academic program and to establish targets for collecting and using assessment results.

Each university is meeting its mark in this category, with UI reporting some type of assessment tool for all 69 of its undergraduate academic programs; ISU reporting assessments for its 112 programs; and UNI reporting assessments of its 92 programs.

Goal 6: Universities should contribute to the expansion and diversification of the Iowa economy.

The board is gauging success by measuring average annual increases in sponsored funding — like money brought in for research endeavors.

This was the only category in which the UI didn’t reach its goal in the 2014-15 year.

The board aimed for 2 percent annual increases in sponsored funding — using a three-year rolling average — at each institution. That would have pushed UI’s total to $449.6 million in the 2014-15 academic year. The UI’s actual average annual total dropped by 2.5 percent to $438.5 million.

ISU topped its goal of $305.9 million with $373.3 million, a 22 percent jump. And UNI beat its goal of $33 million with $38.9 million, a 17.9 percent increase.

Goal 7: Universities should be increasingly efficient and productive.

The board is measuring success by pushing each institution to undertake at least 24 such projects over the five-year span. All three universities surpassed a goal of at least four projects in the last academic year, with 14 at the UI, 18 at ISU, and 8 at UNI.

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