Education

University of Iowa, Iowa State to split $11 million in state cuts

Regent: 'It's a devastating cut as far as I'm concerned'

A Board of Regents meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Wednesday, Sep. 6, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
A Board of Regents meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Wednesday, Sep. 6, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Iowa’s two largest public universities likely will bear a nearly equal brunt of a “devastating” $11 million state funding cut approved in March — forcing both to slash more than $5 million in the budget year that’s just three months from ending.

The Board of Regents will vote next week on a proposal to absorb the state’s $10.9 million de-appropriation by taking back $5.5 million from University of Iowa and $5.4 million from Iowa State University, according to board spokesman Josh Lehman.

“It’s a devastating cut as far as I’m concerned,” Regent Larry McKibben told The Gazette.

Lawmakers, in response to a budget shortfall, last month agree to trim 2.4 percent from a total $455.9 million in state appropriations to five regent areas — Iowa State, University of Iowa, regional study centers, the board office, and Iowa Public Radio. The board took the biggest hit of any state-supported entity — although University of Northern Iowa was held harmless, as it has a smaller budget and a higher proportion of in-state students who don’t pay enough tuition to cover the cost of their education.

The board’s proposal on how to divide the cuts applies the state’s 2.4 percent takeback to each affected unit. The University of Iowa, for example, got $229.3 million from the state for the current budget year — including special purpose units like its Oakdale campus — and Iowa State University got $225.2 million.      

The Board of Regents Office, appropriated $794,714 from the state this year, must cut $19,059, according to Lehman. The regents’ regional study centers must cut $6,687, and Iowa Public Radio — which is the middle of a silent pledge drive — must cut $8,616, according to Lehman.

The full nine-member Board of Regents must approve this round of reductions, which comes on the heels of state de-appropriations last year that cut the board’s base funding by about $30 million in the 2017 and 2018 budget years.

The universities have been grappling with those cuts in different ways. The University of Iowa, for example, nixed some non-merit and non-need-based scholarships and eliminated an increasingly popular Summer Hawk Tuition Grant aimed at reducing students’ time to graduation.

In a March 22 message about this year’s cuts, UI President Bruce Harreld warned the institution “must increase its tuition so that it can compete nationally for the best and brightest faculty and staff.”

“It is time for our university to stop just ‘hanging on,’” Harreld wrote in the message. “Let us all re-examine everything we do.”

At Iowa State, administrators last year decided against mandated across-the-board pay raises and instead offered targeted faculty and staff bumps.

All three regent universities over the summer argued for steep tuition hikes — with UI and ISU proposing 7-percent increases for resident undergraduate students every year for five years, if the state declined to increase appropriations.

The presidents didn’t talk about what they would need in tuition increases if the state deepened cuts. In response to criticism of the tuition proposals, Board of Regents President Mike Richards has said resident undergraduate rate increases in the fall will be under 4 percent.

The board is expected to consider a first of two tuition rate readings next week, with final approval expected in June.

As for the upcoming budget year, the board has asked for a state appropriation increase of $12 million — with $5 million going to both UI and ISU and $2 million going to UNI. The regents have said all that money would go toward student financial aid.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed a $7.25 million Board of Regents increase, but lawmakers haven’t finalized next year’s funding.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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