UNI faces layoffs, program reductions due to budget cuts

Higher enrollment, tuition should offset cuts at Iowa, ISU, school leaders say

An aerial view of the University of Northern Iowa's campus in Cedar Falls.
An aerial view of the University of Northern Iowa's campus in Cedar Falls.

The University of Northern Iowa will cut jobs — through attrition and layoffs — reduce programs and services and outsource things like email to cover a $3.6 million budget shortfall this year, UNI President Ben Allen told state regents Thursday.

Ultimately, UNI officials want to double the school’s out-of-state student enrollment, from about 8 percent now to 15 percent in the coming years, as a way to better insulate the university from state funding cuts, Allen said. Iowa’s three regent universities have lost more than 20 percent of their state funding since 2009.

But look to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University to see the difference enrolling more out-of-state students makes in the face of hefty state budget cuts: the UI expects no staffing cuts this year and ISU President Gregory Geoffroy said ISU’s job reductions will be very few, depending on how each college balances its budget, as this year’s state cuts were passed on to individual units on a differential basis.

Expected enrollment growth this fall at the UI and ISU — much of it from out-of-state students who pay more in tuition — combined with the 5 percent increase to base tuition for in-state undergraduates will help offset millions in state budget cuts, leaving ISU and the UI with balanced budgets and no expected shortfall to cover for 2011-12, Geoffroy and UI President Sally Mason told the regents.

All three universities also in recent years worked to find budget reductions and efficiencies through program consolidations, increased class sizes and early retirement programs to reduce job numbers. The early retirement savings especially continue to pay off this year and help balance the budget, Mason said.

“It’s allowing us now to maintain a healthy and balanced budget,” Mason said. “The enrollment increase contributes to that as well.”

Allen said Thursday he’s unsure how many layoffs or job cuts UNI will make, but that more specifics will be available this fall.

“It’s something that has to be done,” Allen told the regents, noting UNI’s enrollment is 92 percent in-state students, which differs greatly from the lower in-state percentages at the UI and ISU. “We are not positioned the same way.”

UNI’s state funding decrease this year is $4.3 million, with salary and benefit increases for faculty and staff costing the university $3.3 million, while the estimated net tuition revenue increase for UNI is $4.1 million. UNI’s general operating budget for 2011-12 is $160.1 million.

The regents heard budget presentations from the UI, ISU, UNI and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School and Iowa School for the Deaf during the meeting and unanimously approved all the budget plans.

The UI faces a $12 million state funding reduction this year, but expects about $13 million in a net revenue increase, Mason said. That’s because the UI expects $28.5 million in revenue growth from tuition — $20 million from the 5 percent base tuition increase and $8.5 million from expected enrollment growth leading to more tuition dollars, Mason said. UI officials expect enrollment growth of about 500 students this fall.

The UI’s general education fund budget will grow from $612.4 million in fiscal year 2011 to $625.8 million in fiscal year 2012. The additional money will be used in part to add class and lab sections to meet the demand from enrollment growth, Mason said.

At ISU, $11.5 million in state appropriation reductions will be offset by a $20.3 million increase in student tuition revenues, Geoffroy said. Enrollment is expected to increase by about 500 students this fall, he said. ISU’s general operating budget is $469.6 million this year. ISU officials do plan to consolidate academic and support services in the School of Education and evaluate the combination of the political science and anthropology departments, among other budget reductions.

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