Regents approve final budget, transparency recommendations

The state Board of Regents gave the FY14 university budget the final OK, endorsed recommendations of a transparency task force and heard a report on ISU's strategic plan during its Aug. 8 meeting in the Memorial Union. The board also approved the creation of one center and the closing of two other centers and the Harkin Institute.

FY14 budget

Iowa State's FY14 total budget is just shy of $1.29 billion, an increase of approximately $76 million (6 percent) over the FY13 budget. It includes a general fund operating budget of $614.2 million and restricted funds budget of $675.6 million.

In budget remarks to the regents, President Steven Leath said the university would allocate $35 million in new revenues to four overarching priorities -- "maintaining academic excellence, enhancing our basic and applied research efforts, promoting economic development and improving our campus environment, which has become especially critical with our enrollment growth."

Among allocations highlighted by Leath were:

  • $4 million for additional student advising, supplemental instruction, internship support, enhanced writing programs, media help centers, classroom and technology improvements and learning community enhancements
  • $5.5 million to recruit and retain faculty in disciplines in which the university is excelling or has particular demands in teaching
  • $450,000 to retain humanities faculty
  • $1.5 million ($4.5 million over three years) to expand collaboration with external partners on applied research. The funds will go to "large multidisciplinary research projects that will enable us to secure large federal grants," Leath said. "One is in vaccine development, one is in crop bioengineering and another is in global food security, which are all strengths of Iowa State."
  • $400,000 to expand doctoral and post-doctoral scholarships
  • $350,000 for high-performance computing necessary for "big-data" initiatives
  • $514,000 to extend hours and increase security at the library, add public safety and facilities staff and enhance the university's emergency management and preparedness system

Leath also described how two special purpose state appropriations -- $7.5 million to the Bioeconomy Initiative and $12 million to the ISU Research Park -- will be allocated. 

Bioeconomy Initiative funds will be used to improve the research infrastructure, invest in research projects with strong entrepreneurial potential and attract more high-performing graduate students. Research park funds will finance construction of a new facility to house services and agencies that assist businesses.

Transparency Task Force recommendations

The regents reviewed and approved recommendations (PDF) of its nine-member Transparency Task Force, a group charged with recommending best practices for responding to public information requests and giving Iowans access to information. Among other things, the task force recommended that:

  • Each public university appoint a transparency officer to log and track public records requests
  • All public records requests be listed on university websites
  • Each university and the board office hold a public comment hearing prior to every board meeting

Strategic plan progress report

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert presented a strategic plan progress report to the regents. He noted that in this fifth consecutive year of rising enrollment, "faculty and staff on campus have been working very hard to be able to meet student demand and to make sure that students are able to get the classes they need on time and to keep them on track for their graduation."

He highlighted efforts to increase the availability of student housing, provide new and upgraded classroom and study space, keep labs open for longer periods of time, retain top faculty and strengthen academic assistance to students.

Wickert also noted successes in research and technology and in serving Iowans through extension and outreach. "We see Iowa State as a 99-county campus," he said.

ISU centers

Iowa State received permission to close two centers or institutes and open one. Those closing are:

  • Harkin Institute of Public Policy, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The institute was created in 2011 to facilitate research and public access to Sen. Tom Harkin's papers upon his retirement. In May, Harkin announced he would donate his papers to Drake University.
  • Iowa Center for Research on Botanical Dietary Supplements, College of Human Sciences, created in 2003. The center received $17 million from federal sources through 2010. Federal funding was not renewed in 2011 and the center is no longer financially sustainable.

The new center is the Iowa Nutrient Research Center in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Created by state legislation during the 2013 session, the center will coordinate research and innovation that focuses on water quality and reducing farm field nutrients that make it to waterways. A $1.5 million state appropriation in FY14 and FY15 will support the center.

New programs

The regents approved two new academic programs at Iowa State:

  • The new master of finance is a full-time residential program in the College of Business.
  • The new bachelor of science program in public relations makes a stand-alone program out of the popular public relations emphasis that has been available to journalism students for about a decade. The program is in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Name changes

The regents approved name changes for several programs. They're now called:

  • Master of science and Ph.D. in agricultural and biosystems engineering (from M.S. and Ph.D. in agricultural engineering), College of Engineering
  • Bachelor of science in financial counseling and planning (from B.S. in family finance, housing and policy), College of Human Sciences

Other action

In other action, the board:

  • Approved a 4 percent pay increase for President Leath. His base salary for FY14 is $466,752.
  • Heard a presentation about a landscape architecture class' role in developing a multipurpose outdoor classroom on the new campus of the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women, Mitchellville
  • Changed its own policy manual (chapter 8) to prohibit resident undergraduate tuition from being used for student financial aid. The 2013 Legislature approved a bill that likewise prohibits this use. However, tuition collected from nonresident students still may be "set aside" for financial aid.
  • Approved a revised budget of $7.742 million for the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center (up from $7.3 million). The additional funds include private gifts ($300,000) and university funds ($142,000). All nine bids received for the project exceeded the estimate, so revisions were made to the building plans.