Education

University of Iowa makes first distribution from blockbuster $1.165 billion utilities deal

Allocations come nearly one year after deal closed

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Months after the University of Iowa initially planned to allocate millions toward its strategic plan from last year’s blockbuster $1.165 billion public-private utilities partnership, officials Thursday said they’ve decided how to use the first $7.5 million distribution of investment revenue.

The money — pulled from a $985.9 million endowment investment the university made in March after shaving millions off its partner’s upfront lump payment to cover debts, consultant fees and employee training — will support initiatives to bolster student success and retain faculty.

The one-time resources for the current budget year will go toward:

• Implementing “Hawkeye Introductory Courses,” which are preparatory math and science-based courses supporting student success and learning outcomes

• Expanding “IowaRise,” a program aimed at connecting students through research and engagement opportunities

• Developing new interdisciplinary research teams geared toward upping research-and-discovery activity with federal and private funding opportunities

• Deploying a “Faculty Support, Retention, and Recruitment Initiative,” seeking to enhance existing professional-development programs and enacting new ones.

The university in December 2019 — following the likes of Ohio State University — announced plans to partner with Paris-based global energy provider Engie and infrastructure investment company Meridiam for 50 years of private operation of its $1 billion utility system.

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For the collaborative’s $1.165 billion upfront payment, UI committed to paying its new partner a $35 million annual fixed fee plus the cost of utility expenses, employees, maintenance and upgrades, fuel and other items.

That fixed fee will increase at an annual rate of 1.5 percent — guaranteeing the partner five decades of steady revenue. Over the deal’s life span, the UI expects to pay the provider $2.4 million via the fee — not including other utility and employee expenses.

From its endowment, the UI intends to pull $15 million annually for campus-generated strategic initiatives — although it always planned the first year would yield half that amount, $7.5 million.

Over the deal’s life, the university expects to allocate up to $735 million for initiatives. Including what the university plans to pull from the endowment to cover its partners’ fixed fees and other costs, the university has projected pulling more than $3 billion.

Last April, UI officials announced more details about how and when campus community members could apply for a portion of the public-private-produced endowment funds would come in just weeks. But the pandemic delayed those details, even beyond the inference UI President Bruce Harreld made in October when discussing his impending retirement with the Board of Regents.

At that time, the president said, “We’ve got the allocation of P3 moneys for the first time here in the next few weeks.”

In a statement Thursday — one day after making his appeal to lawmakers for more state support — Harreld said, “The university entered into the P3 so we could fund the strategic plan, which we couldn’t do without additional resources.”

“These investments are the first step toward becoming a destination university that not only serves its home state but competes for the best students and faculty from across the nation and around the globe,” he said.

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UI also is investing $2 million from the Office of the Provost for programs aimed at progressing students toward graduation; improving faculty scholarship opportunities; and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion.

Those one-time resources — which the campus achieved through “savings and conservative budget practices” — are intended to address challenges related to the pandemic and social justice issues.

They include:

• Expanding a “Learning Assistant Program” that creates small group environments to enhance active and collaborative learning strategies

• Growing a “Supplemental Instruction Program” with peer-to-peer facilitated group-study sessions

• Deploying a “Summer Bridge Program” meant to better prepare incoming students for math, science and writing courses and the transition to college life

• Supporting terminal-degree students in completing their studies

• Supporting summer salaries allowing faculty to pursue instruction and research-and-discovery activities

• Funding faculty efforts to complete research-and-discovery projects;

• Supporting service projects and research impacting underrepresented populations.

Colleges and UI Path Forward work groups identified the funding recipients.

The UI Path Forward Steering Committee, co-chaired by newly appointed Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel and Vice President for Research Marty Scholtz, is finalizing criteria and processes for applying for the next budget year’s P3 grants.

“The criteria will be released to campus later this semester,” officials announced.

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

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