Education

Regents plan keeps open University of Iowa Labor Center, for now

Tracy Leone with Teamster Local 238 in Cedar Rapids talks to a group supporting the University of Iowa Labor Center after they attended a Board of Regents meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Thursday, Sep. 13, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Tracy Leone with Teamster Local 238 in Cedar Rapids talks to a group supporting the University of Iowa Labor Center after they attended a Board of Regents meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City on Thursday, Sep. 13, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

AMES — After hearing for months from advocates upset with the University of Iowa’s plans to strip funding — and thereby shutter — its long-standing Labor Center, Iowa’s Board of Regents on Thursday, without discussion, approved a revised plan to keep it open for now.

The plan serves as a map for making the 68-year-old Labor Center self-sufficient in four years. It still nixes general education support from the UI starting next budget year, while continuing to provide limited but decreasing College of Law funding through the end of the 2023 budget year.

The larger university has financially supported the Labor Center from its general education fund since the program’s inception in 1951 — providing $557,000 in the most recent budget year. A new memorandum of understanding outlining the plan for Labor Center self-sufficiency drops that contribution to $225,000 in the 2020 budget year, $150,000 in the 2021 budget year, $100,000 in 2022, $50,000 in 2023, and removing all university funding in 2024, according to the plan.

The UI College of Law will primarily pull funds for the center from unspent revenue from the Institute of Public Affairs, which closed in May following the director’s retirement and in response to declining state appropriations.

UI President Bruce Harreld in a message earlier this month stressed the money supporting the Labor Center will not come from state provisions or tuition revenue. And he stressed all the College of Law dollars should be used by the center for work that aligns with the university’s core mission.

Harreld last year, amid continuing declines in state appropriations, announced the closing of the Labor Center and six other centers he doesn’t believe serve the university’s core mission.

Labor Center supporters fought back, and center Director Jennifer Sherer late last year told community constituents her group was considering an array of options to cut costs and generate new revenue in hopes of staying open — including upping program fees, securing new grants and initiating fundraising efforts.

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A more detailed budget plan attached to the memo Board of Regents approved Thursday shows the Labor Center expects to increase its revenue from tuition, which is currently nothing, to $120,000 by 2024. It also plans to increase program revenue from $60,000 this year to $145,000 by 2024 — indicating the center will be charging more for services and participation.

The budget plan challenges the Labor Center to increase revenue from external grants sixfold over the next four years and to up philanthropic support, which accounts for no dollars this year, to $50,000 by 2024.

Even with those changes, the center still expects to dramatically cut its overall expense budget from $808,238 to $565,534 in 2024.

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

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