University of Northern Iowa, DMACC announce $1 million gift toward collaboration

Partnership offers place-bound students another four-year-degree path

University of Northern Iowa. (Still from UNI Facebook video)
University of Northern Iowa. (Still from UNI Facebook video)

Addressing multiple higher education hot-button issues — including the need for collaboration during a pandemic that’s reshaped instruction, slammed the economy, and disproportionally impacted minority students — two Iowa institutions on Wednesday announced a $1 million boost.

A University of Northern Iowa alumni couple, who call West Des Moines home, announced the gift toward a new UNI-Des Moines Area Community College “2+2” partnership aimed at helping Des Moines-based students earn a four-year degree from UNI by starting at DMACC.

The program launches this fall at DMACC’s Urban Campus in downtown Des Moines — the first in Iowa with a majority minority student population — and it marks the only partnership of its size and scale between a public university and community college in Iowa.

Iowa’s public, private, and community colleges of late have unveiled and expanded on a growing count of 2+2 programs that differ in details and scope. The UNI-DMACC collaboration, specifically, lets students start their four-year degree with two on campus at DMACC and then a final two through online courses from UNI.

Degree options, for now, include a bachelor of liberal studies or criminal justice — with the institutions also developing a bachelor of applied science degree in managing business and organizations, a program specifically aimed at DMACC’s associate of applied science program graduates.

The $1 million gift toward the collaboration, announced Wednesday, comes from Mark and Jill Oman. Mark Oman, managing director of Oman Capital, was a first-generation college student wanting to “help others receive the same benefits that a bachelor’s degree provided him,” according to a news release.

Oman — a trustee with the UNI Foundation, the campus’ fundraising arm — said in a statement, “UNI changed my life.” And he expects its partnership with DMACC to “bring the same advantages of a four-year degree to students at DMACC’s Urban Campus without requiring students to leave their jobs, families and community.


“Jill and I believe education is critical,” he said in a statement. “It is the key to opportunity. ‘UNI at DMACC’ will expand access and provide an opportunity for people to earn a four-year degree.”

UNI also collaborates with DMACC to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education through online and on-site courses at some of its other campuses, like in Ankeny and Carroll.

UNI President Mark Nook said the Oman gift not only will bring “meaningful change for our students,” but it will support an “urban campus building project” aimed at creating more modern educational space.

That project — called “Building Community” — involves significant expansion and renovation, including construction of a new 60,000-square-foot Student Life and STEM center, scheduled to debut this fall.

With many students facing new economic challenges in light of COVID-19 and the shutdown it forced, DMACC President Rob Denson in a statement highlighted the help its UNI collaboration will offer place-bound students need more affordable and flexible options.

“I would like to thank Mark and Jill Oman for their wonderful investment in the future of every student who will benefit from the ‘UNI at DMACC’ program,” he said.

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