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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa’s Board of Regents — denied any state funding increase for its public universities in the last legislative session — is requesting a $15 million bump in its higher education appropriations for the next budget year.
If granted after the Iowa Legislature convenes, the biggest chunk of the increase — $7 million — would go to Iowa State University, the board promises, with the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa getting $4 million each. That’s different from the board’s requests in recent years that promised equal amounts to UI and ISU — its research institutions — and a lesser amount to the smaller UNI.
Regent documents outlining its fiscal 2023 appropriation requests don’t explicitly explain the higher request for ISU, which for at least a decade has been enrolling the most students among the three public campuses while receiving less state funding than the UI.
If lawmakers grant the board’s $15 million increase, total higher education funding for Iowa’s three public universities would grow from $486 to $501 million. Even if ISU gets the biggest cut of that bump, its total funding of $179.1 million would remain well below UI’s total funding of $219.6 million.
In addition to $15 million more in higher education funding, the board is seeking increased support for its special schools, economic development activities and special purpose units — like the UI-based State Hygienic Lab — bringing the total requested increase to $22.1 million.
If approved, the board’s total state appropriations would jump from $616.6 to $638.6 million, according to board documents.
Last year, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board asked for $29.3 million more — including $18 million for higher education and a returned $8 million the state had taken away in 2020 due to the pandemic. Lawmakers denied that request, holding higher education operating appropriations flat.
In light of that denial, the Board of Regents increased tuition this fall for all students at all three of its universities — including UNI, which had been hoping to keep rates frozen to remain competitive among its regional peers.
The board’s 2023 funding request — which it will consider formally approving next week during its monthly meeting — outlines how each campus would use its additional money, if appropriated.
The UI would use an additional $4 million to:
- Hire and retain mental health professionals, as “academic success is directly related to the physical and mental well-being of students”;
- Give financial aid and other support services to qualified Iowa residents pursuing a degree in a high-demand field — like computer science, teaching, financial advising and engineering;
- Expand academic advising and instructional practices, focusing on departments and courses with higher enrollments “and/or where there is opportunity to increase retention and graduation rates.”
ISU would use its $7 million bump to:
- Address gaps in retention and graduation rates among certain student groups through curricular improvements in high-enrollment courses, academic advising and tutoring, support for first-generation students and programs helping transfer students succeed;
- Support access and affordability for Iowans through targeted financial aid;
- Promote economic opportunity across Iowa by expanding ISU’s innovation and entrepreneurship programs;
- Retain high-performing faculty and staff — with ISU reporting average faculty salaries equivalent to only 88 percent of peer institutions, down from 98 percent a decade ago;
- Support one-time startup costs and recurring personnel costs associated with online learning, enabling ISU “to modernize and expand the online portfolio.”
UNI would use its $4 million more to:
- Realign tuition and mandatory fees with regional peers, which average $2,820 less in tuition and mandatory fees than the research institutions in their states, while UNI is $735 less expensive than the average undergraduate resident tuition and mandatory fees at UI and ISU;
- Grow enrollment and honor the second year of a negotiated contract for employee salary increases;
- Improve its four-year graduation rate.
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