Higher education

New University of Iowa budgeting process yields some different priorities

$30.9 million revenue bump dependent on proposed tuition hike

The Old Capitol and the Pentacrest, east side, University of Iowa, Iowa City. (Gazette file photo)
The Old Capitol and the Pentacrest, east side, University of Iowa, Iowa City. (Gazette file photo)

IOWA CITY — A “values-based budget process” the University of Iowa launched this spring to give deans and vice presidents more power over decisions has resulted in about $4 million being devoted to different priorities.

Every UI unit received additional funding heading into the new budget process, officials said, and restructuring was not required. But academic and administrative leaders were told to present their budgets to central administration with those resources allocated around four principles: improving student success, addressing quality indicators, focusing on UI values and shaping the UI’s future.

And, according to Vice President for Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz, the submitted budgets “show they chose to reallocate internally — spending less in some areas than in previous years and redirecting that money to other priorities — including faculty pay.”

The university reported the reallocations to the Board of Regents, which next week is scheduled to approve 2017 budgets for all three of the public universities it oversees, along with its special schools, Iowa Public Radio and the regents office.

If the board approves a proposed tuition increase at the same meeting, the UI’s general university budget for 2017 would grow 4.4 percent to $736 million. That amounts to an increase of $30.9 million — $27.2 million of which would come from tuition revenue.

Of that increase, UI President Bruce Harreld assigned $10.8 million to a “strategic initiative fund” aimed at ensuring “high-priority activities receive adequate resources.” Each budget unit petitioned for additional resources from that fund, according to the board report.

The remaining roughly $20 million was distributed across all colleges and operational units, which was where the prioritization came in.

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“The result was re-prioritization of roughly $4 million, across all departments, effectively making $24 million available for the most critically needed issues,” Lehnertz said.

For the $10.8 million, UI’s leadership reviewed 66 proposals from the colleges and vice president offices totaling $22 million, according to Lehnertz. They chose the 25 that were “most ready for implementation,” he said.

UI officials would not release the full list of proposals approved for portions of the funding — as the “strategic initiative” dollars are dependent on the tuition increase.

“If the board approves a smaller tuition increase than proposed, fewer strategic initiatives can receive funding,” Lehnertz said.

Generally, Lehnertz said, the recipients include projects focused on increased student financial aid, new academic advisers, faculty hires focused on key issues, support for interdisciplinary and large grant proposals and building renewal and energy conservation capabilities.

And, he said, a small amount of the $10.8 million is being reserved for one-time commitments that might arise.

Iowa’s other two public universities also are counting on the proposed tuition revenue in the upcoming school year — with Iowa State University projecting another record enrollment of 36,500.

Those projections, when calculated using proposed tuition rates, are expected to generate an additional $33.8 million in gross tuition revenue, according to board documents.

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Using a mix of that new funding and reallocated resources, ISU plans to invest $49.2 million in its priorities — including hiring faculty and advising support, expanding programs and services for international students, providing more scholarships and financial aid, growing research and recruiting graduate students.

The University of Northern Iowa plans to use its revenue bump to elevate student life through programs focused on success and retention and to enhance programs focused on diversity and inclusion, documents show.

The proposed tuition increase for fall is among the highest in the last decade and follows an unprecedented three straight years of frozen rates for resident undergraduates at all three regent universities.

The board next week will consider approving a $300 tuition increase for resident undergraduate students on all three campuses. Paired with an annual $200 increase the board approved in December — after late legislative deliberations came up short of its funding requests — resident undergrads could wind up paying $500 more this fall than they did last.

All three campuses also have proposed various increases for non-resident, graduate and professional level students. The UI is seeking the steepest hikes.

If the board approves the proposed tuition increases, resident undergraduate rates would hit $7,178 at the UI and $7,148 at ISU and UNI.

UI students have pitched a lower increase of $200 — regardless of the students’ residency or education level. But Harreld said anything less than the original proposal would make it more difficult to move the university forward.

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