116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — With gas prices still hovering around record levels — and Iowa’s college and university campuses facing a budgetary quandary in the form of inflation — Kirkwood Community College is rolling out a pilot program this summer to close campus offices on Fridays.
“Changes to summer hours are absolutely inflation related,” said Kirkwood spokesman Justin Hoehn. “The college wanted to reduce the need for employees to drive to the college five days a week. With the new summer work schedule, this would limit the number of driving days to four.”
The average national price for regular unleaded gas reached $4.33 a gallon in March — setting a record. The U.S. average was down to $4.11 Wednesday, with Iowa averaging $3.86, according to AAA. A year ago the national average was $2.87 a gallon.
Kirkwood’s pilot four-day workweek applies to office employees. It doesn’t affect course and student schedules, which have been set for summer and fall and include Friday classes on campus, Hoehn said.
“Campus offices will be closed unless college activities require certain locations on campus to be open,” according to Kirkwood’s summer hours description. “Doors will remain open only in those areas necessary to allow access to campus locations where classes and other business activities are scheduled; all other doors will be locked and closed.”
Higher education leaders across the corridor this week noted the effects of inflation on their campuses — including construction projects, as the cost of materials went up nearly 25 percent in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Labor shortages also pushed up project costs, as noted by University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson while speaking on a “Future of Higher Education” panel Tuesday hosted by the Corridor Business Journal.
“We talk about it all the time,” Wilson said. “It's really crucial on the hospital side, in particular … with that North Liberty project that I'm sure you’re all watching the hospital building, the costs are escalating right now with inflation.”
UI Health Care in September began work on a $395 million 469,000-square-foot hospital and clinic site at the intersection of Highway 965 and Forevergreen Road in North Liberty — adding to a list of other UI construction in process or planned across the campus and broader community.
“I can tell you it’s a constant source of conversation, as are the salaries for our faculty and staff in order to keep those competitive and at market level,” Wilson said. “If we don't pay our staff or faculty competitive wages, we're going to lose the talent that we've worked so hard to bring to Iowa.”
Kirkwood’s construction projects have stayed mostly on track so far, according to Hoehn, except for a delay with the new animal health building.
“However, that was due to supply chain issues and not inflation,” he said.
Generally speaking, the college is experiencing “higher operational costs as a result of inflation similar to all other organizations,” according to Hoehn.
In discussing inflation Tuesday, Kirkwood President Lori Sundberg noted the importance of providing the on-campus experience for students — who, when polled, said they prefer face-to-face instruction and experiences. But amended summer office hours, she said, is one way Kirkwood can save both employees and the campus money.
“We always have summer hours at Kirkwood. We're done at noon on Fridays, and with the price of fuel right now, we know that many of our employees drive at least some distance to the campus,” she said. “So we're going to go down to a four-day week in the summertime.
“We also are considering a remote-work policy.”
Excluded from Kirkwood’s four-day summer schedule are the facilities department and The Hotel at Kirkwood Center.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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