IOWA CITY — The arrival of COVID-19 in March, evacuating Iowa’s public universities and halting normal operations, immediately impacted the institutions’ fiscal year budgets — which were entering the fourth quarter — including athletics and housing revenue, according to a new Board of Regents report.
University of Iowa Athletics — projecting a massive COVID-19-compelled deficit in the tens of millions for the new 2021 budget year — came in nearly $5 million under its income budget last year and generated $2.2 million less than the year prior, according to the report.
Iowa State University Athletics likewise reported income $2.5 million under budget in fiscal 2020 and generated $5.6 million less than the previous year. And University of Northern Iowa Athletics reported $1 million less income than expected last year, which was down more than $800,000 from the 2019 budget year, according to the new regent report.
The athletics details — revealing just how much the programs lost in expected conference contributions, media rights and philanthropy, among other things — come amid the larger context of a 2020 Board of Regents system budget that generated $6.37 billion.
That was up over the previous year’s $6.13 billion in actual revenues, thanks in part to recent increases in state appropriations, which regent and university leaders say haven’t made up for more significant cuts several years ago.
“While state operating funding reflect small increases in recent years, it remains significantly less than that of FY 2016,” according to the report.
Fiscal 2020 tuition revenue across the three campuses was $4.4 million under budget and $2.4 million less than the prior year — due, in part, to enrollment slips and shifts in the student body makeups happening before the pandemic.
The UI campus, according to the budget summary, generated about $1 million less than expected in tuition revenue last year, “with resident tuition making up 44 percent of the total and 56 percent coming from nonresidents.”
UI enrollment dipped slightly from 31,656 in fall 2018 to 31,240 in fall 2019.
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Iowa State brought in $1.9 million less in tuition revenue than budgeted, but $3.1 million more than the previous year, “primarily due to increased tuition revenue from nonresidents.”
And UNI emerged with $1.6 million less in tuition income than expected and nearly $6 million less than in fiscal 2019 — due, in large part, to slipping enrollment, which fell to 10,497 in fall 2019 and to 9,522 this year.
The regents’ budget breakdown for fiscal 2020 exposed details of how the pandemic derailed what had been projected to be a banner year for UI Athletics — which expected to generate $124.9 million in income, about $28.5 million more than in the 2016 budget year.
But it made less than expected from football and basketball — while doing better with women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling, which generated 55 percent more revenue than anticipated. The big UI losses came via multimedia and conference revenue, which together came in $1.6 million under expectations.
Also, UI Athletics received $1.7 million less in donations than budgeted.
“Sports income was slightly under budget primarily from the cancellation of spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the report. “The pandemic also resulted in reduced conference/NCAA distributions primarily from the cancellation of the basketball tournaments. Foundation support decreased due to effects of the pandemic on annual donations.”
UI Athletics, in looking ahead at 2021, has projected a deficit in the tens of millions — prompting UI Athletics Director Gary Barta and UI President Bruce Harreld to permanently cut four sports: men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis.
The new regent budget report shows UI Athletics spent less than planned in every expense category except football.
Although Iowa State generated more from its actual sports in fiscal 2020 than budgeted, it lost big in multimedia and conference contributions — propelling its $2.5 million under-budget income.
Also driving Iowa State’s total revenue drop from the year prior was less philanthropic support.
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By contrast, UNI saw more alumni and foundation support in 2020 compared with 2019 but experienced big losses in sports revenue.
UNI generated $2.4 million in sports income — the lowest since at least 2016 and down from $2.9 million in 2018.
When the pandemic forced Iowa’s public universities to mostly empty their residence halls, the systems lost big — to the tune of $2.5 million in revenue for UI Housing and Dining. Because operating costs also declined, the system managed a net revenue increase of $1.7 million.
Iowa State, which has thousands more residence hall students than its sister campuses, lost $6.9 million in revenue — although saved even more, like Iowa, and upped its net revenue by $2.1 million.
UNI’s residence system came in $3.1 million under budget but managed a $1.4 million net increase.
And all three reported smaller residence hall totals this fall:
• UI occupancy this fall fell 1,115 — nearly 18 percent — to 5,218.
• ISU’s occupancy dropped 1,799 — 17 percent — to 8,658.
• UNI’s occupancy dipped 244 — nearly 8 percent — to 2,953.
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