Spring tuition increase is for ISU, UNI students only

University of Iowa resident undergraduates will be exempt from a 3 percent spring semester tuition increase assessed their peers at both Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa. The state Board of Regents approved regent Patty Cownie's amended tuition proposal, on a 7-2 vote, after Iowa student government president Liz Mills told the board her university "doesn't have the same need" for revenue as Iowa State and UNI.

Mills also was critical of the "short notice" for the tuition increase. Board president Bruce Rastetter noted that he floated the idea of a spring increase at the board's June meeting, shortly after a late adjournment of the 2015 Iowa Legislature.

Regents Katie Mulholland and Larry McKibben voted against the amended tuition proposal, though McKibben had noted earlier that he wouldn't support any proposal for a spring tuition increase.

Stating they prefer smaller, steady increases to large spikes on the heels of tuition freezes, Dan Breitbarth and Katie Evans, student body presidents at Iowa State and UNI respectively, urged board members to support the spring increase. Breitbarth said the various ISU student group leaders he spoke with nearly unanimously agreed on a "dire need" for additional revenue.

The increase translates to a $100 spring tuition hike for most Iowa State resident undergraduates; up to $133 for students in programs with previously approved differential tuitions. It will raise an estimated $1.65 million in additional revenue for Iowa State.

FY17 state appropriation requests

The board faces an Oct. 1 deadline to submit funding requests to the state (governor and Legislature) for the year that begins July 1, 2016.

For the second consecutive year, the board will request differential changes to the three universities' general university operations appropriations. The board approved requests of a 4.5 percent ($8.2 million) increase for Iowa State to meet student enrollment growth and an 8.1 percent ($7.6 million) increase for the University of Northern Iowa for what Rastetter called a "historical financial budget structure challenge that isn't going away." Originally proposed to remain flat, the University of Iowa's general university appropriation request is for a $4.5 million (1.9 percent) increase.

Several regents cited conversations with Iowa's incoming president, Bruce Harreld, who requested additional funding to strengthen Iowa's core teaching and research missions. Rastetter proposed the change to the appropriations request.

But other regents noted "a disconnect" between the messages coming from the University of Iowa.

"I am troubled by the mixed messages from the students, who say there's no need for more revenue, and the institution leaders, who say there is," Mulholland said. "We just approved a tuition increase for two schools only."

The board also will request a 2.7 percent increase for directed appropriations to all schools, whether covered by education, agricultural or economic development funds. Examples at Iowa State include the veterinary diagnostic lab, ag experiment station and cooperative extension.

The upper end of the inflation range in the Higher Education Price Index for FY17 is 2.7 percent.

Student health center update

Associate vice president for student affairs Martino Harmon updated board members on changes occurring at the Thielen Student Health Center, both prior to and in response to a critical assessment of the center completed in March by consultant Keeling and Associates. The changes address capacity, service access and fiscal concerns. They include:

  • Identifying two finalists for the director's post who will interview on campus this month
  • Hiring four certified medical assistants to staff the front desk
  • Hiring a second triage nurse to help handle the high volume of student phone calls and follow-up office visits
  • Conducting searches for two full-time assistant directors: one in clinical services and one in administrative services (who starts Sept. 24)
  • Extending service hours during Dead Week, a stressful week for students
  • Hiring (in July) a quality improvement officer, who is preparing the center for accreditation in March 2016
  • Assessing the appropriate mix of physicians and nurse practitioners and opening searches for both. Financially, two nurse practitioners can be hired for the cost of one physician and the Keeling team endorses the use of nurse practitioners in a student health setting, Harmon said. University human resources is allowing continuous, open searches in this case to minimize vacancies when medical professionals leave or retire.
  • Hiring two more mental health professionals and renovating second-floor space to provide more privacy for the center's mental health services
  • Working with student leaders to identify strategies for expanding access to services
  • Making modifications to the center's financial model for better efficiencies and to open new revenue streams

Harmon said the university will do a comprehensive study on expanding the Thielen building that reflects future needs in both clinical services and staffing.

"We know we have a long way to go. We've made great progress over a short period of time but we're not there yet. We're going to continue to work extremely hard to get there," Harmon said. "I want you to know that the staff of the Thielen Student Health Center are a group of hardworking, committed, dedicated people. They care about students and they're committed to these changes."

ISU retirements

During his prepared remarks, President Steven Leath announced the retirement of two more Iowa State leaders: senior vice president for student affairs Tom Hill (in December) and university counsel Paul Tanaka (next spring). He also shared with the board the previously announced retirement of Human Sciences dean Pam White (in July 2016). Leath said the university will launch national searches for all three positions.

Fall enrollments

The three university presidents made the first public announcements of their schools' fall enrollments during the meeting. They are:

Global corporation

The board approved Iowa State's request to establish the nonprofit ISU Global Corp., in cooperation with the ISU Foundation, to lease, develop or own facilities in foreign countries as part of the university's international programs. ISU Global would create limited liability entities for specific countries that would operate safely and in compliance with local laws.

The corporation's first proposed project is in the Kamuli district of Uganda, and includes a long-term land lease (about 25 acres) and construction project to consolidate ISU's operations currently at a half dozen locations. The facility will include staff offices, a student dormitory for 48 students, guest rooms for about a dozen visiting faculty and staff, housing for resident managers and their families, recreation areas and a security wall and gate. The estimated cost is $2.5-3 million, funded by private donors via the ISU Foundation. Vice president for business and finance Warren Madden, who said that the corporation presents "a better way to do [international programs] long term," noted that the donor hopes to have this project completed by the summer of 2017.

Residence hall bond sale

The board also approved a $30 million sale of dormitory revenue bonds to partially pay for the Buchanan Hall building 2. The first bond sale for this project (and the Friley dining center renovation project), also in the amount of $30 million, was approved in April.

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