Leath talks funding, budget and more with senate

President Steven Leath, a guest at the Feb. 10 Faculty Senate meeting, spoke primarily about budget issues, including the state Board of Regents' proposed performance-based funding model being considered by the Iowa Legislature.

Among his remarks to the senate:

Performance-based funding
"The 60 percent in-state [student] focus gets all the publicity and hype, but the model is obviously more than that."

* * *

"Our growth has probably been a little too fast in some ways over the last few years, but it's mostly been in agriculture and engineering, and heavy growth in biological sciences. Realistically, the performance-based funding model is based on a three-year, rolling average. I think we would continue to see an increase in funds for at least the foreseeable future."

* * *

"Right now, we get about $9,000 from the state for undergraduate in-state students; the University of Iowa gets over $14,000. Nine thousand [dollars] is below the cost of education. We really need a better model to pay for their education. There are two ways to do that, to raise tuition -- which we're trying not to do -- or get more from the state. The cost of education difference between us and Iowa isn't merited."

* * *

"I think we'll see some action this year. There is a big sensitivity right now in the Legislature that we have a lot of Iowa kids and we're not getting adequate resources. We are cautiously optimistic something good for us will come out of this, I'm just not sure what it's going to look like."

Student-faculty ratio
"We have a 19-to-1 student/faculty ratio. I don't want that ratio to get any higher. We hired a lot [of faculty] last year -- [Provost Jonathan Wickert] and his team hired over 100 -- and it's going to be over 130 this year. Realizing that causes complexities with space and resources, I still think that's something we need to do, especially while we have the opportunity."

Student Innovation Center
"We're hoping to get this Student Innovation Center, and move all the student projects out of the Armory, as well as some other places on campus, and have a first-class facility for student hands-on experience, learning, capstone projects and other things."

Tuition freeze
"Actually, the students at UNI and the students here were not in favor of a resident undergraduate tuition freeze. It cost us over $2 million. Our students made a rather eloquent argument that they'd rather see the small incremental increase and have some of that $2 million go in to deal with some of the growth issues on campus. This one caught us all off guard. It makes performance-based funding even more critical."

* * *

"They tied this tuition freeze into the idea that we would more than recoup this from the TIER study. That efficiency study is costing us about $2 million, so it's not a free study. Most of the big savings happen over time. Miles Lackey, my chief of staff, thinks he can generate $1-$2 million in the short-term, but we have to continually remind the regents that basing all of these potential savings in the TIER study is a little risky."

Space at AIB campus
"[University of Iowa] President Mason has never talked to me about being a partner on the AIB campus, never personally invited us, never proposed anything."

* * *

"Over the last six months, my chief of staff and [College of Business] Dean Spalding have looked at space in Des Moines to enhance our profile there and upgrade our MBA program in Des Moines. They found a lot of great space -- frankly, 100 percent of it is better than the AIB campus. We're not enthused at this point. While this process is taking place and so much is in flux and so many questions are being raised, we thought we would just stand back for a week or two."

Research priorities
"Generally, the priorities don't usually come from me, they come from faculty groups. A lot of the cluster hires and focus come from the colleges and multidisciplinary groups. If we do another round of big multidisciplinary grants to help seed projects, that will no longer be in my office. We moved all of that administration into [vice president for research] Sarah Nusser's shop when she came on board. I would expect her to run that program from a research platform. The closer you keep that to faculty, the better off you're going to be."

Faculty survey results

Associate provost Dawn Bratsch-Prince presented a summary of results from the national COACHE (Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education) faculty satisfaction survey conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education last year. The survey, which focuses on nine areas, was available to all faculty. Only pre-tenure faculty were surveyed in past years. About 50 percent of ISU faculty participated.

ISU identified five land-grant institutions for peer comparisons, including North Carolina State, Purdue, Arizona, California-Davis and Minnesota. Iowa State ranked among the top two in six areas:

  • Health and retirement benefits
  • Facilities and work resources
  • Departmental engagement
  • Senior leadership
  • Mentoring
  • Interdisciplinary work

ISU ranked below its peers in three areas:

  • Tenure reasonableness
  • Departmental leadership and collegiality
  • Satisfaction with time spent teaching and teaching loads

ISU faculty identified overall characteristics they were satisfied and dissatisfied with, listed in the chart below.



Quality of colleagues

Geographic location

Cost of living


Sense of "fit" here

Too much service

Academic freedom

Lack of support for research

Opportunities to collaborate

Quality of departmental leadership


Bratsch-Prince said the survey results will be used to identify areas for improvement, including a focus on:

  • Mentoring associate professors
  • Communicating the tenure and promotion criteria and process
  • Developing department leadership and collegiality

"You’ll be seeing initiatives coming from our office and the colleges in the next year," she said.