Higher education

AIB could be 'acceptable' for Regents Resource Center

Long-term future of AIB's Des Moines campus remains unclear

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

AMES — The AIB College of Business campus gifted to the University of Iowa last year in hopes of continuing its tradition in higher education could be an “acceptable” location for Board of Regents programming “for a number of years as these programs get started.”

But the long-term future of AIB’s campus in Des Moines remains unclear after the board on Thursday received a report of an “academic program needs assessment” of the region. The board in December agreed to pay MGT of America up to $91,435 to review academic needs and best locations for that programming in Des Moines after AIB officials last year gifted its campus to University of Iowa.

Originally, the plan was to turn the AIB campus into a satellite UI campus — possibly even absorbing some AIB students into the university. But plans quickly changed, and the board said the campus — which officially will shutter at the end of this month — instead will become a Regents Resource Center.

The University of Iowa already is planning to begin offering several academic programs on the former AIB campus this fall. But the MGT evaluation said the property, which sits about three miles south of downtown, is not the “most positive” location for regent academic programming.

Downtown Des Moines would be the best option — in terms of accommodating those members of the public who the regents could best serve, according to Ray Thompson, vice president of higher education services with MGT.

But Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter on Thursday asked Thompson if the AIB site, which includes about 20 acres, would be acceptable.

“Yes I think it is,” Thompson said. “In lieu … of the resource issue that you’re facing in this state, I think that’s an acceptable approach to it at this point.”

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Rastetter said — after hearing Thompson’s report — there does seem to be a programmatic need in the Des Moines area. Specifically, according to MGT’s findings, baccalaureate needs exist in the areas of business, finance, accounting, data analysis, and others. Master’s level needs include social work and health professionals, and doctoral and professional needs include school psychologists and education administration.

“It would appear that there is significant need,” Rastetter said.

When AIB President Nancy Williams in January 2015 announced plans to gift the campus to UI, she noted her family’s desire to maintain its educational mission. A subsequent gift agreement indicated the university would use the donation “to conduct programs of higher education for the benefit and enrichment of the citizens of the greater Des Moines and Central Iowa areas.”

Regent documents related to the board’s approval of that agreement indicated “no current plan or intention to sell or transfer the asset to a third party for economic purposes.” Still, according to the agreement, “The University of Iowa has disclosed fully to the AIB administration its participation in a Board of Regents’ assessment of longer-term educational needs in greater Des Moines and determination of the best options for delivering those programs.”

The Polk County Assessor’s Office shows the property’s current value is about $20.4 million. The AIB gift agreement states any proceeds of a sale of its real estate “would be used for student financial aid or for continued support of Des Moines area academic programming.”

Several regents during Thursday’s discussion raised concerns private colleges have flagged about cutting into the market they serve. But Rastetter said a need persists.

“As I read the report, there were significant numbers of majors and degree programs that weren’t being served in the Des Moines market, which is why the need was there,” Rastetter said. “I think if those universities were serving those in a way that was needed, there wouldn’t be the need today and really the opportunities to serve the community.”

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