116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The president of the state Board of Regents said Tuesday that Iowa's three state universities are overdue for another comprehensive efficiency study to maximum scarce resources for the benefit of students bearing increasing debt loads and pressures to graduate on time.
“We think a generation and a half is too long,” said Bruce Rastetter of Alden, noting the last thorough examination of functions at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa State University in Ames and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls was a $1.2 million efficiency audit done in 1989.
The 1989 audit covered 33 areas that ranged from bookkeeping practices to unnecessary academic duplication at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. As a result, each university cut some programs and refined others.
The regents have formed two committees to conduct self-examining reviews and assessments of everything at the three campuses, Rastetter said, from academics and administration to athletics and from infrastructure to technology.
“It will be a very large study to look at a variety of factors,” he told members of the Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club. “That's why we haven't said we won't look at certain areas. It has to look at everything. We have to challenge ourselves to deal with difficult decisions as they come up.”
Included will be an eight-month study of how best to measure the universities' performances and funding allocations, as well as determining how best to “incentivize” the universities to graduate their students in a timely manner and lower student debt, he said. A separate examination will look at areas where savings can be achieved, where investments should be made, and places where the schools are doing well and where they need to improve, he added.
“Clearly the easiest way to keep people happy is to continue the status quo, and clearly that has led to increasing cost of a college education and the challenges with how we improve the universities with limited resources,” Rastetter told reporters after the meeting.
“If we're not willing to deal with difficult choices, we shouldn't be here and we shouldn't be doing this,” he added. “So there will be some difficult choices, but I think there will also be some great outcomes where we also want to fund at a higher rate areas that are being underfunded and making sure that those resources are there to grow those programs that will have great success.
“It won't just be a negative outcome. My guess would be that there would be significant positive outcomes from this and there would be some tough choices,” he said.
Rastetter told the breakfast group that a personal challenge for him is to “eliminate the tag that we've been partisan when we have not,” noting that the board overwhelmingly votes unanimously on most issues. The perception led to two regent nominees failing to win confirmation in the Iowa Senate last session.
“Nothing that the regents have done has been partisan,” he said, pointing to successful searches for presidents at Iowa State and Northern Iowa that were open and transparent.
“I feel good about the success we've had so far. We're dealing with issues that for a generation haven't been dealt with,” Rastetter said. “We have a Board of Regents I think today that wants to accomplish things and wants to make a difference in what they do and I feel great about the people that are on there.”
Rastetter said the board is committed to freezing in-state tuition rates for a second straight year if Gov. Terry Branstad and the split-control Legislature fully fund the regents' request for a 4 percent increase in state appropriations for fiscal 2015. He said that would mark the first back-to-back freezes in nearly 40 years for students who pay nearly $6,700 in annual tuition and an average of about $1,200 a year in additional fees.