University of Iowa, AIB to partner for new campus in Des Moines

UI to eventually own AIB's land and buildings, officials say

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DES MOINES — In its quest to grow enrollment especially among Iowans and compete for state money under new rules, the University of Iowa announced Monday plans to open a second campus by merging with the AIB College of Business in Des Moines.

UI is not buying the non-profit institution that offers degrees in business-related programs and specialties. But the university will assume ownership of AIB’s 20 acres and 16 buildings, including residence halls capable of housing about 500 students. Eventually, all AIB students will become UI students.

“No money is being exchanged,” AIB President Nancy Williams said at a news conference. “AIB is not being sold to UI. We are doing this because it’s the right thing in AIB’s proud history.”

AIB has no debt, she said, and the move is not financially driven. Enrollment at the college has been increasing. But according to Williams, the merger is reflective of “challenges today in higher education.”

She said she had been thinking about a merger for some time and approached UI President Sally Mason about the idea over a “casual conversation” in the summer.

AIB’s transition to becoming the new UI-Des Moines campus will take at least a year, officials said. The merger requires approval from the Board of Regents, and board President Bruce Rastetter appeared at the news conference to express support.

In the immediate future, AIB will maintain a business focus and a commitment to its current 1,014 students and the degrees they’re pursuing. But Mason said she envisions eventually offering a broad spectrum of courses, like at the Iowa City campus.

She also said offering graduate and master’s degrees on the UI-Des Moines campus is “tempting,” but programming details have to be worked out.

“By June 2016, we want to have all this done,” she said.

In fact, Mason said, she expects students applying and being admitted for AIB’s fall 2015 semester will be considered UI students.

An AIB student currently pays a tuition of $18,000, and scholarships bring that down to an average of $11,000. The merger is expected to further drop tuition for in-state students, who pay $6,678 at the UI undergraduate level.

Mason said details haven’t been ironed out about how many degrees and programs will be offered on the Des Moines campus or how many students it will be able to accommodate. But Williams said she believes AIB has capacity to double enrollment and physically grow.

The partnership bolsters UI’s efforts to increase its student body after the Board of Regents last summer approved a new funding model tying a majority of state appropriations to resident enrollment.

Based on current enrollment numbers, UI would lose $12.9 million in the model’s first year to Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, both of which have a higher portion of in-state students.

Monday, Mason said that opening the campus “is definitely a piece of” efforts to increase in-state enrollment.

The university already has a presence in Des Moines, with the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center, which offers course work leading to certificate and degree programs. It also partners with the Des Moines Area Community College.

“Now, with the facilities AIB is entrusting to us, we will be able to do a whole lot more,” Mason said. “Students will be able to live here and earn a UI degree.”

Everett O. Fenton founded the college in 1921. It moved to its Fleur Drive site in 1972.

AIB is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Last year, it graduated 184 students with bachelor of science degrees and 119 students with associate in applied science degrees.

AIB has more than 11,700 alumni, about 79 percent of whom live and work in Iowa.

AIB has 180 full-time and part-time employees, including 24 full-time faculty members and 53 adjunct faculty. When asked how the merger will impact staffing, Williams said, “We’re business as usual for the time being.” And, Mason said, “We need them.”

In 2001, AIB began offering online classes and the college was approved to offer its first online associate degree in 2003. It began offering all associate degree majors online a year later and in 2008 was approved to offer bachelor’s degrees online.

It also competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Sports, offering men’s and women’s golf, bowling, soccer, volleyball, softball, baseball, competitive dancing, and cheerleading. It has more than 230 athletes from more than 15 countries.

Williams said she doesn’t know yet how the merger will affect its athletics.

Shortly after Monday’s announcement, students began calling college administrators asking what the change could mean for their education. School officials told them it’s too soon to say.

Williams said she’s committed to doing what’s best for students. Those enrolled now will be able to complete degrees as planned.

“Whether their diploma will say AIB or UI will be worked out,” she said.

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