Regent funding formula must be re-examined
The regents funding task force was to study and recommend needed change to the funding formula which divides a $500 million “pie” between the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. Uneven enrollment changes (ISU increase – UNI decrease) created financial tension the existing practice had not accommodated.
Task force deliberations on key subjects became a 2-1 vote against the University of Iowa when the three presidents presented their views to the task force. ISU-UNI proposed a $50 million “takeaway” from UI to be split between them. After discussions and votes, the final task force recommendation, on a 4-1 vote (I dissented) was very close to this proposal. $47.3 million was finally approved by the full Board of Regents on an 8-1 vote, with the “takeaway” from UI to be split between ISU and UNI. The “money tree” for some needed additional funding should be in Des Moines (the legislature/governor) and not in Iowa City. While phased in over four years, the target reduction is equivalent to the annual budget of the Tippie College of Business.
State operating budget support to the institutions has been reduced in recent years from about two-thirds state allocation and one-third tuition to the current one-third state money budget support at UI/ISU and two-thirds tuition support.
UNI is a very different institution in size, mission and student body. Ninety percent of the students are Iowa natives, creating a financial pressure resulting in the recent state allocation covering 54 percent of their budget. That share is insufficient for UNI, and it needs support. In spite of reduced state support, the strong census of non-resident students at UI/ISU (40 percent-35 percent) enabled the regents to now approve a three-year tuition freeze for resident students. That level is the lowest in the peer groups of the two schools. The UI ISU non-resident tuition premium is the enabler for the $7,000 resident level now in place.
There are approximately 36,000 Iowa high school graduates each spring and the future forecast is flat to down for the next five or more years. An ISU study indicates about 44 percent of those students can be expected to pursue a four-year degree program. Of those 16,000 students, ISU, UI and UNI currently enroll nearly 7,000 each year. That leaves fewer than 10,000 students in the marketplace to be divided among 30 private colleges, 15 community colleges, exits to out-of-state school choices, and now even heavier recruiting by the regent schools.
Beyond my strong objection to the massive redistribution the regents propose, I am concerned about the impact of this resident enrollment push on the private colleges and community colleges. Their very important contributions to future citizenry and leadership in this state are currently challenged in meeting their budgets and providing educational value. There are many measures of the value from a college education. At UI 40 percent of the non-resident students take their first job in Iowa. Other schools may have different ratios, but all are contributors to this reverse “brain drain.”
As a taxpayer, I object to substantial budget dollars being spent on recruiting against each other rather than educating students, regardless of residence.
This subject now moves into the political arena. The Board of Regents is considered part of the executive branch, appointed by the governor. The legislature has the pocketbook. Both have a role to play.
I would urge that citizens and principals at the private and community colleges contact their local legislator and/or the governor. Members and leaders in the House and Senate should be made aware of your concerns. Urge the tabling of the regent funding proposal, and demand a new study. There is a better way. It shouldn’t be a done deal until after the efficiency study outlines ongoing needs.
Len Hadley is from Cedar Rapids. He is a member of the Regents Funding Task Force and the former chairman and CEO of the Maytag Corp.