Higher education

University of Iowa using flood funding, lost scholarships to balance budget

Efficiencies, employee effort also helping cover cuts

Floodwaters inundate the University of Iowa campus on June 16, 2008. The university, with most of its flood recovery work done, is using $4.9 million in funds originally committed to flood recovery to help cover the $9.2 million in budget cuts ordered by the state this budget year. (The Gazette)
Floodwaters inundate the University of Iowa campus on June 16, 2008. The university, with most of its flood recovery work done, is using $4.9 million in funds originally committed to flood recovery to help cover the $9.2 million in budget cuts ordered by the state this budget year. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — In its scramble to cut more than $9 million from this year’s budget — and after scrapping a plan to do so by eliminating some scholarships — the University of Iowa now is relying on anticipated savings in student aid, flood-recovery funds and new efficiencies to balance the budget.

The $1.8 million that UI administrators plan to save in student financial aid reductions will come from students who fail to meet minimum grade requirements for their scholarships, according to UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck.

Another $4.9 million will come from funds that had been committed to flood recovery but are being released now that most mitigation and recovery projects have wrapped.

The university plans to find the final $2.5 million — totaling the $9.2 million in state appropriations lawmakers retracted from UI in the current budget year — through institutional efficiency efforts and savings on non-recurring investments.

Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa also are wading through the mire of midyear budget cuts after the Legislature in January passed a statewide $117.8 million de-appropriations bill. The Board of Regents took the biggest hit, losing an initial $18 million. That figure grew to $20.8 million a month later.

All told, the UI must cut $9.2 million, ISU $9 million and UNI, which for years has battled budget woes, $2.5 million.

ISU President Steven Leath, who resigned last week to become president of Auburn University, told the Board of Regents in February his school would address the reductions by delaying capital improvement projects, leaving vacant positions open and reducing some purchasing — for computer upgrades, scholarly subscriptions and other professional services.

UNI is taking similar measures, administrators have reported.

State support for ISU, which has seen its student enrollment skyrocket over the past decade, has been a chief concern for Leath, who recently told lawmakers Iowa State is in a “very, very difficult position” and he’s “really, really concerned about where we’re going.”

ISU said it would not cut student aid.

The UI tried that approach, to save $4.3 million, but after two students filed lawsuits, and legislators complained, the university changed course, allowing students already promises aid to receiving the help this year. But the scholarship programs named in the initial cuts will end after this academic year.

UI spokeswoman Beck said the $1.8 million the university now plans to save in student aid reductions is not the result of any change in requirements. Scholarships mandate full-time continuous enrollment — 12 credits or more — and varying grade-point averages, depending on the scholarship.

On the freed-up $4.9 million in flood-recovery funds, Beck explained the university established a pool of funding totaling $8 million a year to cover flood recovery and mitigation costs not funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“In order to help address the state budget cut, the university is reducing flood recovery funding,” she said in an email.

Because that flood funding comes from the general education portion of the budget, the underlying source of the funds is state appropriations, tuition and fees and investment income.

“The release of the flood funding was expected on the completion of flood recovery,” Beck said.

As to specifics about UI efficiencies and savings, Beck noted the UI has saved $4.5 million through information technology, procurement and shared services adjustments. It’s saved $2.5 million in employee effort — from “administrative tasks to the core functions of teaching and research.”

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The university, she said, expects to save another $4.5 million through its efficiency efforts by the end of the 2018 budget year.

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

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