CEDAR FALLS — A plan announced last month to transform the AIB College of Business into a Des Moines campus of the University of Iowa took a turn Thursday when UI’s president said it will become a regional center that could offer academic programs from all three public universities.
In July 2016, the AIB will become the Regional Regents Center operated by the UI. The business college announced it will end its athletics program in May, not enroll a 2015-16 freshmen class and work with its students to earn their AIB degrees before June 2016 or help them transfer.
When UI President Sally Mason and AIB President Nancy Williams last month announced the private college’s intention to give its property to UI, they said it would become a UI satellite campus. Mason at the time said she assumed AIB’s 1,000-some students would become UI students, meaning its 800-some resident students would benefit UI under the Board of Regents’ new funding model that ties a majority of state funding to resident enrollment.
Based on current enrollment figures, UI would lose $12.9 million in state appropriations in the new funding model’s first year. Mason had said AIB students could be counted as UI students as early as fall, but Thursday she said no students will transition until 2016 — and then it’s unclear how many will be counted as UI students.
“Some of them will be,” said Mason, who announced the latest plans at the Board of Regents meeting in Cedar Falls. “But not until 2016.”
Mason said teams with both schools have been working over the past 10 days to discuss issues involved in a transition of the 94-year-old, 20-acre Des Moines campus, which AIB officials have said is valued at $21.5 million.
They have learned that for a smooth transition that doesn’t jeopardize UI’s academic standing, AIB must stop teaching students in June 2016 and the new center must take over in July 2016, Mason said.
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“As we started to talk about the possibilities, it became clear to me that we wanted to open it up as broadly as possible,” she said.
That means inviting other institutions — including Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa — to “work with us” in ensuring the center meets student needs. She said UI will operate the institution, but ISU and UNI will be able to offer courses there.
Regents President Bruce Rastetter said he envisions ISU and UNI renting space on the urban campus, but details are being worked out.
ISU President Steven Leath said Thursday his university is “certainly interested” in expanding its offerings and partnerships in Des Moines. UNI President William Ruud called it an “exciting” opportunity.
“All three of us definitely have programs we can offer in Des Moines,” Ruud said.
UI and AIB officials had announced the gift without finalizing details about the impact on students, faculty, staff and athletes. Mason said administrators are continuing to address concerns about student degrees and employee retention.
AIB officials announced Thursday that while athletic programs will end in May, softball, baseball and golf teams will complete their spring competitions.
Asked about having an athletics program on the Des Moines campus, Mason replied, “I’m not interested in another set of Hawkeyes.”
“I love my Hawkeyes,” she said.
After the initial announcement last month, Regent Larry McKibben told The Gazette he had concerns, including duplication of services at a time the board wants to improve efficiency.
McKibben said he was pleasantly surprised by Mason’s announcement.
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“I think it’s a great opportunity to be a regents center … it fits within the (efficiency) goals to develop more collaboration,” he said.