Rastetter: No one wants to harm the University of Iowa

'Do we want to challenge it to be better? Sure'

Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter of Alden speaks during their meeting in the main lounge of the Iowa Memo
Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter of Alden speaks during their meeting in the main lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus Wednesday, June 5, 2013. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter on Thursday said a proposal that would significantly change the way state funds are allocated to the three public universities is not meant to harm the University of Iowa.

“We don’t believe it’s anything that should cause any anxiety to any of the three universities, including the University of Iowa,” Rastetter said Thursday to a room packed with Iowa City-area and UI dignitaries during the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club.

“No one has any intention to harm this university,” Rastetter said, mentioning that he’s a UI alumnus. “Do we want to challenge it to be better? Sure.”

If the Board of Regents in June approves a proposal to tie 60 percent of state-allocated higher education funds to resident enrollment at the three public universities, Iowa State University would become the top funded university in the state. The UI, on the other hand, would see a hit to its appropriations of nearly $60 million — if the changes were implemented in one year.

Rastetter told the Rotary group Thursday that no funding change will happen that quickly — the proposal is to roll out a new system over a two- to four-year period beginning in the 2016 budget year. The proposal also recommends capping the amount of money that could move from university to university each year to 1 to 2 percent of the 2013 budget.

That would give each university ample time to adjust their recruiting methods to better compete for the state dollars, Rastetter said Thursday.

“I really think the University of Iowa can compete,” he said.

During a UI Staff Council meeting last week, Rastetter criticized the UI’s efforts to recruit in-state students and said its campus tours aren’t as welcoming as those offered at ISU. Rastetter backpedaled some on Thursday and said the word “welcoming” wasn’t the best term.

“I meant you can get better at recruiting,” he said. “What we’re saying is grow the university. Recruit in-state students to take some of the pressure of Iowa State.”

Rastetter fielded numerous questions and comments during the meeting, including several from Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek, who addressed Iowa City’s role in welcoming new and prospective students to town.

Hayek said the city has a UI student liaison on the City Council, and he said Iowa City sends a letter to every new UI student. He talked about the value Iowa City places in the university’s ability to recruit students both from Iowa and from around the nation and world.

There’s economic benefit to attracting talent “from Iowa and beyond its borders,” Hayek said, asking Rastetter to consider those things before approving a new funding model.

“We hope the process will be thoughtful and not overly formulaic,” Hayek said to loud applause.

Rastetter said the proposed funding change is not meant to indicate that any university has done anything wrong. And, he said, the regents have no control over how and who a university chooses to recruit.

But, Rastetter said, the board wants state appropriations per resident student to have more parity among the universities — requiring a change.

Right now — based on a decades-old “base-plus” funding model — the UI gets 46 percent of the state’s general education funding, ISU gets 36 percent and UNI gets 18 percent. Meanwhile, the UI’s freshman resident enrollment is the lowest among the three schools at 48 percent.

In addition to allocating 60 percent of state appropriations based on resident enrollment, the proposed performance-based funding metrics would distribute 15 percent based on each university’s progress and attainment, 10 percent based on access, 5 percent based on job placement and continuation of education and another 10 percent would be up to the regents to decide.

Rastetter on Thursday said he’s willing to consider changes to the proposal that would more heavily weigh graduate and professional studies. He said he’s looking forward to having those discussions with other regents.

With or without changes to the proposal, however, Rastetter said the Board will make a final decision on how to move forward with a new funding model at its June 4 board meeting in Ames.

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