Higher education

University of Iowa bracing for big cuts

President Harreld asking units to 'be prepared'

University of Iowa Provost Barry Butler speaks to the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club during a luncheon at the University Athletic Club in University Heights, Iowa, on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Butler spoke on the university’s new five-year strategic plan. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
University of Iowa Provost Barry Butler speaks to the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club during a luncheon at the University Athletic Club in University Heights, Iowa, on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Butler spoke on the university’s new five-year strategic plan. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld has directed those in charge of each of his campus’ budget units to start prioritizing and to “be prepared,” in the face of potential cuts to state support that’s already been allocated for the current budget year.

“President Harreld has been very good at saying you need to sit down and look at prioritizing things, and at the end of the day, be prepared,” UI Provost Barry Butler said while speaking Thursday to the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club.

Gov. Terry Branstad earlier this week proposed $110 million in de-appropriations for this budget year after tax collections came in lower than projected. Higher education, and specifically the Board of Regents, is facing the biggest hit with the governor proposing taking back $25.6 million from the regents and another $8.7 million from community colleges.

It’s unclear how the Board of Regents would divvy up those cuts among its three public universities — should lawmakers approve Branstad’s proposal. And Butler said UI hasn’t yet received specific information about how much it might lose.

But, he said, university leaders started planning weeks ago for the possibility of de-appropriations — after news broke of the potential budget shortfall. And UI leaders are to meet in about a week to start going through budgets, unit by unit.

“Including my own unit,” he said.

Butler said the $25.6 million hit to the Board of Regents “is a big number,” but vowed, “We’ll work with it.”

“(President Harreld’s) message has been very clear to everybody, and that is we have to prioritize,” Butler said. “That means within each unit looking at what’s the highest priority.”

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Harreld in November joined the other two regent university presidents in making an appeal to Branstad for more money in the next two budget years. In his pitch, Harreld cited slipping rankings in faculty retention and compensation, and argued more money is key for continued academic excellence and student success.

Butler on Thursday told The Gazette that Harreld continues to view faculty recruitment and retention as a top priority.

“We’re always concerned about our ability to recruit and retain faculty,” he said.

Harreld has left it up to department heads to balance their budget’s high and low priorities, but Butler said the president has made clear that faculty are paramount.

“And that’s the message we’ve received,” he said.

As part of Branstad’s 2018 and 2019 budget proposals, he’s asked for a 2 percent increase in state support each year for the regent universities. But because the proposed $25.6 million cut would be to the base of the state’s general fund support for the three campuses, those annual bumps wouldn’t bring funding back in line with current levels.

“We will come through it,” Butler said. “We understand the dollars have to balance out at the end of the day, so we’re doing our part.”

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

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