Education

$12 million funding bump to be split evenly among Iowa's three state universities

Increase meets UNI's budget request, falls short for UI, ISU

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)

The Iowa Board of Regents plans to split a $12 million bump in state appropriations evenly among its three public universities — fully funding the University of Northern Iowa’s request for 2020 but falling short of the University of Iowa and Iowa State University asks.

The $12 million increase — $6 million less than what the board requested for the upcoming budget year — will go toward financial aid for resident undergraduate students, regent spokesman Josh Lehman told The Gazette.

That’s how the board last fall promised to use the $18 million more in state support it sought — with $7 million going to both the UI and Iowa State and $4 million to UNI.

By getting the full $4 million increase it wanted, the UNI is able to freeze tuition rates for all its students — regardless of residency status, undergraduate or graduate level, or program type. Meanwhile, the UI and ISU are increasing rates for resident undergraduates 3.9 percent — more than the 3 percent they planned with full funding, according to final tuition rates the board will consider approving next week.

Overall, the Board of Regents is getting a 2.7 percent increase in general education support for the upcoming budget year that starts July 1 — bringing the total to $582.4 million across its three campuses, two special schools, regional center, board office and Iowa Public Radio.

Although not as much as hoped, the $12 million bump will “specifically support new strategic initiatives, meet needs caused by enrollment increases, meet the demand for new courses and services, fund new but unavoidable or mandated cost increases, and support any other initiatives important to the core functions of the universities,” according to a Board of Regents Office legislative report.

Additional new state funding for Board of Regents projects, programs and operations includes:

• $1.1 million of a $4 million request for the UI and ISU biosciences innovation program — with $825,000 to ISU and $275,000 to UI

• $400,000 for UNI’s expansion of the Metal Casting Center’s additive manufacturing capabilities — fully funding the board’s request

• $300,000 more for ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory operations — short of the $410,000 request

• $1 million more for the governor’s STEM Advisory Council at UNI

• $130,000 for the Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the UI “to anticipate, recognize, and prevent occupational illness and injury in the agricultural community.

As far as campus construction goes, the board received its final year of funding for the new UI pharmacy building and ISU biosciences building, and the second of six years of previously approved funding for Iowa State’s new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Lawmakers made some changes to previous infrastructure approvals, including cutting $3 million out of 2020 funding for the ISU student innovation center and adding it to the project’s final year of funding in 2022.

The Legislature also agreed to require the Board of Regents produce a report by Dec. 13 detailing construction costs for previous projects dating back to Jan. 1, 2004, for which the state provided at least part of the financing from its Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

“The report must include information regarding how the board defines new construction and renovations, a list of capital projects initiated due to extraordinary circumstances, and the current method used by the board and institutions to develop financing plans for capital projects,” according to the regent’s legislative summary.

“The report must also include recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the type of capital projects that should be eligible for state funding, the share of state-funded capital projects that should be funded with nonstate dollars, and how the fundraising plan will be developed for state-funded projects.”

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The Legislature this session debated a policy proposal to impose a 40 percent funding match requirement for UI and ISU construction projects seeking state support, and a 20 percent match requirement for UNI. However, the 40-40-20 language was scrapped for now, in favor of more study.

• Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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