Higher education

Board of Regents seek no new money for University of Iowa

Sen. Dvorsky: 'I thought we were beyond that'

Iowa Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter speaks to the University of Iowa Staff Council at Old Capitol Town Center in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter speaks to the University of Iowa Staff Council at Old Capitol Town Center in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The state Board of Regents is asking for a combined $15.8 million in new state allocations for Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa in the next budget year — citing record enrollment at ISU and UNI’s focus on “educating Iowans who tend to stay in Iowa.”

But the board has requested no increase in general fund appropriations for the University of Iowa,

According to board documents made public Tuesday, the Regents asked for a 4.5 increase in general fund appropriations for ISU — or $8.2 million — and an 8.1 percent increase for UNI — or $7.7 million.

The board will consider approving its 2017 budget requests totaling $656.8 million in operating appropriations at its next meeting Sept. 9. That total includes $230.9 million in general fund appropriations for UI, $190.4 million in general appropriations for ISU, and $101.9 million for UNI.

With regard to its ISU request, according to the board, the “new state appropriations would be used to address critical capacity needs associated with increasing student growth while maintaining and advancing the quality of academic programs.”

For the current 2016 budget year, the Regents last year asked lawmakers to approve a performance-based funding model that would have taken about $13 million from UI and redistributed it — $6.4 million to ISU and $6.6 million to UNI.

The board asked the Legislature to backfill that $13 million to UI for one year to hold it harmless and give it time to adjust to the new performance funding metrics, which were largely based on in-state enrollment but also rewarded access, attainment and research.

The model, however, was not approved. It drew widespread criticism from lawmakers — along with private and community colleges — who thought it did not sufficiently value graduate programs and caused undue competition among the state’s various schools.

Instead, lawmakers agreed on base appropriation increases of $5.1 million for UNI and $1.2 million for ISU — along with one-time allowances of $2.3 million for ISU, $1.1 million for UNI, and $2.9 million for UI. But Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed those one-time amounts, leaving UI without any increase in state support for the 2016 budget year and jeopardizing the third consecutive tuition freeze for resident undergraduate students planned for this academic year.

The board agreed to go ahead with the tuition freeze for this fall semester. But it is expected next week to increase resident undergraduate rates for the spring by 3 percent — or $100.

The Board of Regents’s 2017 budget request doesn’t mention performance-based funding metrics but instead lays out strengths and goals of each university and justifies the need for new money now and in the future.

Status-quo funding

At UI, the board is requesting status-quo funding for the upcoming year, but also said the institution is expecting to grow by 420 students this fall — 50 percent of whom are Iowa residents.

It praised UI for having the lowest resident undergraduate tuition and fees in the Big Ten and for increasing retention and graduation rates — the four-year graduation rate is projected at 53 percent.

“As the university grows, additional resources will be needed to expand support programs and foster additional innovation,” according to board documents.

Although it doesn’t mention performance-based funding, Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said this year’s proposal seems similar and — in his opinion — doesn’t properly address the needs at UI or ISU.

With the growth at UI and its high-cost graduate programs, Dvorsky said, he thinks an increase to its base appropriations is warranted.

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“There does seem to be a vendetta against the University of Iowa, and I thought we were beyond that,” he said.

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