Consultant's class scheduling, course offering findings go to regents

The state Board of Regents took a first look at a proposed tuition freeze next fall for resident undergraduates at Iowa State and University of Northern Iowa during its Oct. 22 meeting in Iowa City. As proposed, University of Iowa undergraduates would play catch-up with their counterparts, paying a 3 percent tuition increase occurring at the other two universities this spring semester.

In September, the board approved a 3 percent 2016 spring semester tuition increase -- to $6,848 -- for resident undergraduates only at UNI and Iowa State. Next fall, Iowa resident undergraduate tuition would be raised 3 percent.

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Oct. 21 board meeting summary

  • Academic business cases
  • Faculty work week
  • Proposed tuition increases for ISU students are:

    • 4 percent, for resident veterinary medicine students
    • 3 percent, for nonresident undergraduates, all graduate students and nonresident veterinary medicine students

    A vote on tuition and mandatory student fee proposals is scheduled for the board's Dec. 2 meeting.

    ISU Student Government president Dan Breitbarth told the board that ISU students facing an increase this spring are relieved to not have to budget for another increase next fall. However, he noted, "There's still additional need for financial resources at Iowa State University. We want to make sure that our wonderful faculty and staff continue to receive salary increases that are competitive nationwide, and we want to be able to provide additional resources that our increasing student body continues to need as well."

    Breitbarth added that part of the funding equation is convincing legislators in the 2016 session to increase state support for the regent universities, and said he intends to be part of that effort.

    Undergraduate student leaders from UNI and Iowa both expressed support for gradual, consistent tuition increases over tuition freezes offset with more severe spikes to catch up.

    Supplemental tuition

    Iowa State requested its first supplemental tuition since 2011-12, $500 per year for three years, for current and new nonimmigrant, noncitizen international students. The revenue would help cover costs of additional services needed for international students, currently funded by all students. These services include additional time with academic advisers, English language training and reporting requirements for international students, and higher costs in admissions work and financial transactions.

    Mandatory student fees

    Iowa State also is requesting a $33.50 increase to the mandatory fee for all ISU students, broken out in two pieces:

    • A $20 increase to the health fee to implement Keeling and Associates' recommendations to improve the student health center
    • A $13.50 increase to the student services fee to support additional CyRide service and projected fuel cost increases for the bus service

    As proposed, mandatory student fees at Iowa State would range from $1,075 to $1,337 next year.

    TIER business cases

    Associate vice president and chief of staff Miles Lackey, who also serves as Iowa State's liaison to the board's TIER (Transparent, Inclusive Efficiency Review) process, provided an update from Ad Astra. The board contracted with this consultant team last winter for recommendations to:

    • Improve classroom and laboratory use through informed scheduling policies
    • Optimize faculty assignments in a course schedule that is data-driven and student-centered

    Lackey said the consultants analyzed course section schedules and room schedules and compared the data with a comparable group of schools in its own Higher Education Scheduling Index, a database compiled from its 800-plus clients at universities and colleges. Each of the three regent universities received its own set of recommendations – directional in nature and requiring further development prior to implementation, Lackey said. Implementation will not look the same at all three schools, he said.

    Among its findings for Iowa State:
    Classroom scheduling

    • Existing classroom spaces can support the current enrollment growth. Stricter scheduling policies will be needed for classrooms of 100+ seats, which are more in demand. In some cases, technology upgrades would improve the usability of classrooms. Additional 100+ seat classrooms may be needed in the future.
    • More classes could be scheduled in non-prime times, including evenings.
    • Lab demands create a space bottleneck for some departments, restricting program growth. An additional four to five labs (new or renovated) would support quality and growth. Another strategy is to shorten lab setup times.

    Course offerings

    • Iowa State's undergraduate course scheduling process is "exemplary." The Course Availability Group is effective at making sure most courses have sufficient seats to meet student demand. Keep the emphasis on courses required to complete degrees.
    • Allocation of ISU faculty time is relatively efficient. Sections that statistically are not needed make up 6 percent of the schedule (12 percent is the average at similar universities). Sections needed but not offered amount to 1 percent of the schedule (5 percent is the average at similar institutions).
    • "Off-grid" scheduling -- courses not in the normal Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday meeting patterns -- during prime time is higher than average (55 percent of hours scheduled are outside the grid). Best practices are prevalent but policies aren't always enforced. Given the decentralized nature of academic scheduling, target policies would be the most reliable way to improve this.

    What's next in TIER

    Regent Larry McKibben said board members and the university communities will review the Ad Astra report, as well as the Pappas Consulting report presented a day earlier. The TIER representatives at the three universities should collect feedback on their respective campuses, to be shared with board members at a special November telephonic board meeting (not yet scheduled) to discuss implementation. McKibben said he'd like each university to develop its own implementation plan with faculty input.

    "It's my personal goal that this isn't going to be a year-long project. We need to maximize the use of the facilities we have, we need to move toward improvements. There may be some silos, some 'ownership' issues [with classrooms] we have to face," he said. "My expectation, on both of these projects, is significant movement through next spring. So we're looking forward, when we get into next fall, to having some things implemented."

    Other business

    In other Iowa State-related business, the board:

    • Approved Reginald Stewart's appointment as vice president for diversity and inclusion, effective Dec. 1.
    • Approved the Center for Statistics and Application in Forensic Evidence in the office of the vice president for research. It is a National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST)-sponsored center for research, education and outreach in statistical and probabilistic methods for the forensic sciences. Partners in the center are Carnegie Mellon University; University of California, Irvine; and University of Virginia. NIST funding totals $20 million over five years, with a five-year renewal possible.
    • Received an annual oral report from vice president for economic development and business engagement Mike Crum on economic development highlights from the year that ended June 30, 2015. One piece of his report featured Research Park development, running at about six times its normal rate, he said. Workiva moved into its second building, new facilities for Vermeer and Boehringer Ingelheim are being built, and tenants of the new core facility -- including Crum's office – will move in late next spring. Crum said he has or is negotiating with commercial tenants needed to attract private growth in the park, including a restaurant, fitness center, health clinic and child care center. Construction should begin in the spring.
    • Appointed three additional members to three-year terms on Iowa Public Radio's (IPR) board of directors: attorney and former regent Robert Downer, Iowa City; Des Moines Social Club founder and executive director Zachary Mannheimer, Des Moines; attorney and former Iowa Supreme Court justice Marsha Ternus, Des Moines. This brings board membership from seven to 10; recent by-law changes allow this expansion with the aim of increasing private financial support for IPR.