Leath makes annual appeal to legislative subcommittee

President Steven Leath and his peers from the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa presented their fiscal year 2017 budget priorities to the Legislature's education appropriations subcommittee Feb. 11 at the state Capitol.

Iowa State has asked for an additional $9.7 million in state operational support for the budget year that begins July 1. This includes an $8.2 million increase (4.5 percent) to the general university appropriation and 2.7 percent increases (totaling about $1.5 million) to university units or programs that receive their own state appropriation.

Leath said more dollars in the general university operating appropriation would pay for additional:

  • Student support services, such as academic advising, tutoring and supplemental instruction
  • Investments in student learning analytics
  • Investments in student financial literacy to reduce debt at graduation
  • Online technology infrastructure and learning opportunities
  • Faculty, to lower the current student-faculty ratio of 19-to-1, second highest in Iowa State's peer group

Following are a few excerpts from Leath's comments.

Decline in state support for resident students

Leath noted that Iowa State has experienced seven straight years (2009-15) of record-setting enrollment and a growth rate of 29 percent over that time. But since 2009, Iowa State's appropriation per resident student has declined 28 percent (from $12,705 to $9,120 per resident student). "This, combined with the fact that we froze resident undergraduate tuition for five straight semesters and will freeze tuition again in the fall, has resulted in a challenging budget situation. We are in need of additional state support."

Student-faculty ratio

"Our goal is to lower our ratio to 16-to-1, which would put us in line with UNI and Iowa. To do that, we would have to hire 300 additional faculty in one year while keeping enrollment constant. These faculty are needed in core programs that drive the state's economy, such as agricultural and biosystems engineering; civil, construction and environmental engineering; mechanical engineering; education and vet med -- as well as fundamental programs like chemistry, English and math."

Enrollment task force

"We understand this may prove to be another challenging budget year for the state. That is why we are considering alternatives, in case our appropriation request is not fully met. Our faculty senate is exploring all possible courses of action, such as a significant increase in differential tuition, more selective admissions standards or changes to our recruitment strategy to focus more on out-of-state students and less on resident students."

Land-grant commitment

"We don't want to do anything that will jeopardize our land-grant mission or our commitment to the state to educate Iowans. However, we do recognize that without a significant funding increase, we will need to make some difficult decisions. We want you to be fully aware of what we're facing."

In closing, Leath said, "We are proud to serve more Iowans than any other institution through education, research and outreach. Thank you for your consideration of the unique challenges we face in educating more than 21,000 Iowa students."