Higher education

AIB College of Business shutters, transfers assets to University of Iowa

Board of Regents introduces new 'Iowa Center for Higher Education'

Students walk between classes on the AIB College of Business campus in Des Moines on Thursday, January 29, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Students walk between classes on the AIB College of Business campus in Des Moines on Thursday, January 29, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Des Moines’ AIB College of Business officially shutters Thursday, ushering in a new era for the 20-acre campus as an “Iowa Center for Higher Education” overseen by the Board of Regents.

The site’s new name is its third since AIB administrators in January 2015 announced plans to gift the campus to the University of Iowa. What originally was pitched as a possible UI satellite location quickly morphed into a future “Regional Regents Center” and then a “Regents Resource Center” before its introduction Wednesday as an “Iowa Center for Higher Education.”

The board debuted the new name in documents made public Wednesday, the eve of the official transfer of assets from AIB to UI. Jane Schorer Meisner, AIB spokeswoman, said “no one knows at this time” the exact value of those assets, but the Polk County assessor’s website lists the AIB property at $20.4 million.

“There will still be audits to do and other details associated with closing a business,” Meisner said in an email, adding that AIB President Nancy Williams said, “To us, the gift is priceless.”

Board documents on Wednesday laid out more detailed plans for the former AIB campus in the upcoming fall — along with long-term goals — which will be presented to the board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee next week.

Those goals include providing Des Moines-based educational opportunities at all three regent universities — UI, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa — in part by cross-listing courses “to support different regent university programs and to create efficiencies.”

The aim is to minimize the cost of education, maintain quality classroom experiences, and combine online and in-person offerings to allow flexibility, making the center a “national model of educational efficiencies that involves a cooperative approach among the three regent universities.”

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In the short term, however, only the University of Iowa is slated to offer programming. In the upcoming fall, UI will offer four undergraduate programs on the former AIB campus “for students who want the convenience of education opportunities in the Des Moines area.”

Those programs include a bachelor of science program in sport and recreation management and three bachelor of arts programs in enterprise leadership, political science, and social work.

The social work program will offer in-person classes on the new Iowa Center for Higher Education campus, while the other programs will offer a combination of online and on-campus courses.

“All four programs will offer some in-person classes in Des Moines at the center starting in fall 2016,” according to board documents.

The UI School of Social Work has been offering bachelor and master programs at the UI’s Des Moines-based John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center since 2010, but the change in location will be “more convenient for students due to the available parking.”

Both the sports and recreation management and enterprise leadership programs are among the fastest growing undergraduate majors on the UI campus and well-suited for the Des Moines market “because of the significant number of student internship opportunities in the greater Des Moines area,” according to the board.

For example, faculty who will teach courses in the sports and recreation management program have connections with professional athletic teams in the region — like the Iowa Cubs, Iowa Energy, and Iowa Wild, board documents show.

The enterprise leadership program is the result of a partnership of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the UI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, which has an associate director who lives in Des Moines and has developed connections with the business community.

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The political science program, currently offered to off-campus students via online courses, will be offered in an in-class format in Des Moines “due to the interest and availability of UI political science faculty to teach in Des Moines.”

Courses will be staffed by adjunct faculty or lecturers hired from the Des Moines area, regent university faculty who travel to Des Moines, and center “faculty fellows,” which will include recent doctoral graduates interested in teaching and living at the center.

When the AIB gift was first announced, administrators discussed the desire to keep some AIB faculty on board. But AIB spokeswoman Meisner on Wednesday said only four AIB employees will join the UI staff.

“Three are from our facilities crew, and one is a receptionist,” she said.

At least one of the new center’s classrooms will be outfitted with technology enabling classes taught in Iowa City to be available in “real time” to students at the Des Moines center. Some of the programs will offer night courses, but many will be offered “during the regular school day to create a campus feel.”

The board documents also include details for a marketing plan, including reaching out to Des Moines-area high schools and community colleges, sending mailings, and advertising at festivals, via building banners, and through radio advertisements.

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